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Goodreads⎮Reviewed Jul. 2017
Narrator: Eddie Huang
Length: 7h 55m
Publisher: Random House Audio⎮2013
Synopsis: Eddie Huang is the 30-year-old proprietor of Baohaus – the hot East Village hangout where foodies, stoners, and students come to stuff their faces with delicious Taiwanese street food late into the night – and one of the food world’s brightest and most controversial young stars. But before he created the perfect home for himself in a small patch of downtown New York, Eddie wandered the American wilderness looking for a place to call his own.
Eddie grew up in theme-park America, on a could-be-anywhere cul-de-sac in suburban Orlando, raised by a wild family of FOB (“fresh off the boat”) hustlers and hysterics from Taiwan. While his father improbably launched a series of successful seafood and steak restaurants, Eddie burned his way through American culture, defying every “model minority” stereotype along the way. He obsessed over football, fought the all-American boys who called him a chink, partied like a gremlin, sold drugs with his crew, and idolized Tupac. His anchor through it all was food – from making Southern ribs with the Haitian cooks in his dad’s restaurant to preparing traditional meals in his mother’s kitchen to haunting the midnight markets of Taipei when he was shipped off to the homeland. After misadventures as an unlikely lawyer, street fashion renegade, and stand-up comic, Eddie finally threw everything he loved – past and present, family, and food – into his own restaurant, bringing together a legacy stretching back to China and the shards of global culture he’d melded into his own identity.
Funny, raw, and moving, and told in an irrepressibly alive and original voice, Fresh Off the Boat recasts the immigrant’s story for the 21st century. It’s a story of food, family, and the forging of a new notion of what it means to be American.
4.5★ Audiobook⎮Fresh Off the Boat grabbed my attention because of the ABC sitcom adapted from it. I started it looking for a laugh and came away with something much more profound.
There were still loads of laughs, though. During one particularly sleepless night, I laid in bed listening to this at 4 AM, laughing so hard that my pillow was wet with tears. There was something so refreshing about Eddie’s way of storytelling. It was raw, unpolished, and entirely genuine. I felt his emotions.
Culturally, we have nothing in common, but I still found myself relating to Eddie. I loved hearing about his experiences growing up as a child in the 90s. That’s the main reason I began that television show last year. However, hearing this audiobook made me realize how much of Eddie’s story they had to tone down for television. The real Fresh Off the Boat is much more intense, making the ABC show look like Leave It to Beaver.
With every pop culture reference, I forged a stronger generational bond with Eddie Huang. The aforementioned 4 AM laughing spree was sparked by Eddie telling how he tortured his younger brother by holding him down and putting Nickelodeon Gak in his hair (remember Gak?).
I also related to him as a young adult. His reflections on the 2008 presidential election nearly brought me to tears. Eddie voiced feelings about that time that a lot of people can relate to. Most of Eddie’s feelings and experiences are specifically tied to his being Chinese-American, but I definitely think that those from other cultures and minorities will be able to see pieces of their own stories reflected in Eddie’s experiences.
Eddie speaks candidly of a deeply-rooted issue in America thats effects transcend one culture (racial stereotyping). He addressed this issue in a way everyone can understand, even if they haven’t personally experienced its effects. That’s more than I could ever do and I applaud Eddie’s courage.
This didn’t come across as a politically-motivated memoir, but it approached politically-sensitive issues. My favorite point Eddie made was saying that stereotyping is harmful because it has the power to create self-fulfilling prophecies. I had to stop the audiobook after that and reflect on what was just said.
In all, Fresh Off the Boat was much deeper than I was expecting. It was part politics, part comedy, and part cookbook. Personally, I could have done without so much of the cooking talk, but that’s understandable since he’s a chef (a fact of which I was previously unaware).
I learned so much about Eddie as an individual and about Chinese culture. I knew next to nothing about Chinese food and culture before beginning this memoir, so Fresh Off the Boat served as my introduction. Eddie’s experiences were incredibly eye-opening. There was something powerful about reading a memoir from someone (nearly) my own age. Knowing that he and I grew up around the same time, yet with completely different cultural backgrounds, helped me to appreciate his story even more.
Narration review: Eddie Huang narrated <i>Fresh Off the Boat</i>. He opened it by breaking down the fourth wall and speaking directly to the listener about being in the recording studio. That introduction set the tone for the rest of the audiobook. Throughout the ensuing eight hours, it felt as if Eddie was speaking directly to me. His delivery was relaxed and casual. The best thing about his narration was when he would crack himself up telling a joke or funny story. His laughter was infectious and always got me laughing too.
Eddie also does the voiceover for the television adaptation, so I recognized his voice immediately. He didn’t have the largest tonal range, so it was a little hard to distinguish who was speaking during his anecdotes, but that’s not a huge detraction here. I overwhelmingly recommend hearing this on audiobook. ♣︎