“Chinese people don’t believe in psychologists. We just drink more tea when things go bad.” – Eddie Huang
Eddie Huang has created a modern masterpiece with his memoir Fresh off the Boat (also a TV show!). The deviant cum lawyer cum chef cum TV producer epitomizes the quintessence of Asian wisdom as he chronicles the journey of finding his zen. Like many other kids who grew up under the domineering expectations of immigrant parents (myself included), Huang endeavored to find the balance between old world and new, ancient traditions and modern culture. His path was not serene, but he ultimately found serenity.
As the token Chinese kid in various classrooms in several schools, Huang struggled to meet the demands of his parents and those of an exclusive American culture. Pervasive throughout the snafu of his early life was the understanding that he “couldn’t cross over [to being white]” (41). Eventually, he stopped trying and began the process of self actualization, shedding the bindings that were foisted upon him. He recounts, “I could have owned the car [that his father bought for him], stayed in Orlando, worked for my dad, run his restaurants, and never had to worry about money ever again, but that wasn’t me. That’s not what life was about to me. I didn’t read the Koran, starve myself for two weeks, read the Tao Te Ching, and struggle for answers every day just to give up for a car. I remember not having money, I remember having money, and neither had a bearing on who I was as a person. It affected how others saw me, but not how I saw myself…You can’t possibly know until you have it, but trust me, it only means something if you earned it. If it’s truly yours” (118). And so he forges his own path to create his own reality.
Internalizing lessons from bullies, professors, friends, and family, Huang learns the value of integrity and honor, loyalty and love. Crafting his words with comedic precision, yet remaining true to his authentic voice, Huang reminds us, “If you want your voice to be heard, you have to fight. There’s no other way around it” (224).
For more on Eddie, check out: