All I kept thinking while I was reaching Eddie Huang’s memoir, Fresh Off the Boat, was that the one word people need to know to describe it is…bombastic. It’s not a word I use a lot, or probably that most people use a lot, but there’s something about Huang’s tone as he writes–like you’re just sitting around with him talking story. Something about it that makes me feel like I should call him Eddie.
I warn you, before I begin, not to make any comparisons or assumptions about the book based on the popular and much-written-about television series. They’re different beasts. Really. The book is profane, it’s enthusiastic, it’s straight forward, it’s not trying to skim over anything.
Let me give you a taste:
My brothers and I shared three comics, two dinosaurs, and one copy of Coming to America between the three of us. There was one blue one dinosaur that Emery and I both liked, and this big shitty orange dinosaur that neither of us wanted to play with. My kindest act as a brother was to let Emery play with the blue one. That was the apex of my accomplishments as a good older brother. I mean, damn, I ate all the kid’s food, he should at least get the blue dinosaur.
This is very much a memoir that’s both narrative in terms of dealing with major life events (friendships, freak-outs, trips, the like) but also throws in bits of reflection, advice, and soul here and there. Eddie never backs down from what he’s saying and you can see the thread throughout, that he goes with what he wants and feels and there’s never any apologies. Yes, sometimes it gets him into trouble, yes, sometimes his choices might not jive with you, but in the end, it’s a very human story. And it’s refreshing in being so blatantly unapologetic. I basically plowed through it on the subway, even being stopped once by someone who works with Eddie on VICE’s Fresh Off the Boat series (now apparently called Huang’s World) who was hyped to see the book being read. And the waiting list at the New York Public Library is at least 100 people long.