By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asian Weekly
“My Mom is a Fob”
By Teresa Wu and Serena Wu
Penguin Group, 2011
For Asian Americans, the term “fob” is not new. If anything, it’s commonly used to refer to those moments we have that lean more toward the Asian part of our upbringing than the American.
Fob, or “Fresh Off the Boat,” has previously been used in a derogatory manner, but Teresa and Serena Wu have taken the word and turned it into one of pride, specifically when it comes to mothers.
In “My Mom is a Fob,” the sisters share moments in their lives where their mother exhibits particularly fobby behavior. But rather than being embarrassed about it, they reminisce fondly over the memories, knowing their mother — no matter what she had said or done — was only looking out for them with the best intentions.
The book is also a compilation of other fobby mom moments collected from their blog, mymomisafob.com, and submitted by others.
As a daughter of Asian immigrants, I found myself laughing out loud at some of the entries. I could easily imagine my own mother doing or saying similar things. From wearing ridiculously large hats for sun protection to opening my mail, to giving me brutally honest and unsolicited advice about what to eat, wear, pursue as a career, etc., my mom would fit right in with the rest.
“My Mom” will have readers, both Asians and non-Asians alike, in stitches. The former because they’re probably anxious to get to a computer to submit their own entries, and the latter because, well, the things these women say and do are just plain funny.
In addition to thinking about their mothers’ antics, I’m sure some readers may also think about their own. I certainly did and admit to having inherited fobby tendencies in certain aspects of my life.
And while in the past, this may have been embarrassing, like the Wu sisters, I embrace it and proudly wave my fob flag (one of the 24 napkins I’d taken from Starbucks, tied to a chopstick) up high.
“Mad at Mommy”
By Komako Sakai
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2000
If there’s one thing children are good at, it’s showing their emotions. And one of the strongest emotions they have no problem expressing is anger.
There is nothing quite like the image of an angry child — arms crossed, head down, brow furrowed, and frowning with the bottom lip pouting out. You just want to hug that child and fix whatever the problem is. Put that facial expression on a young bunny, as in “Mad at Mommy,” and the urge increases ten-fold.
Originally published in Japan, “Mommy” is the story of a little bunny who is very angry with his mother, and he proceeds to list the reasons why: from sleeping in late and not letting him watch cartoons, to being late in picking him up from school and forgetting to wash his clothes. The little bunny has many reasons to be upset! But despite his anger, the young bunny realizes that he loves his mommy and that she loves him, too.
Although it is about fictional rabbits, “Mommy” explores very real feelings young children can have. The book recognizes things that we as adults may not think are big deals but that can be huge for children. This was one of my favorite things about the story. I also loved the story’s lesson of forgiveness and the mother’s unconditional love for her son, which I think is something children need to see.
The illustrations are wonderful, perfectly capturing the bunny’s anger, which I presume was not easy to achieve. I especially loved the cover.
“Mommy” is a story children young and old will enjoy. I read it to a family friend’s 4-year-old daughter and she adored it. She made me read it to her multiple times in a single sitting and then at least once during the next few times I saw her, which I did gladly since I loved it as well.
“My Korean Deli”
By Ben Ryder Howe
Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 2010
One of the rules for running a business is to never do it with family.
Yet, this is exactly what Ben Ryder Howe does.
As if living in his in-laws’ basement wasn’t enough familial involvement for him, Howe goes into business with them after his wife Gab, the daughter of Korean immigrants, buys a deli as a way to repay her mother’s lifetime sacrifices.
And before he can comprehend the idea of repaying one’s mother, Howe finds himself commuting from his in-laws’ home on Staten Island to the Upper East Side to his editor job with the “Paris Review.” He finishes his day at their Brooklyn deli, only to return to Staten Island to repeat the routine the next day.
“My Korean Deli” is the true story of one man risking everything for a convenience store: money, marriage, sleep, and sanity.
Along the way, we meet the Paks, Gab’s family. There’s Kay, Howe’s sharp, but stubborn mother-in-law. Edward is a ghost of a father-in-law and refrigerator repairman who drifts in and out of the story as he works on air conditioning. And finally, we meet Gab, whose background in law has made her the go-to person when it comes to contracts and other paperwork.
We also meet the assortment of characters who frequent the store, from Dwayne, the big African American employee they inherit from the previous owner, to Super Mario, a Dominican regular who has no qualms about changing the radio station as he sees fit.
With so many people from such varied backgrounds, wills battle and cultures clash as everyone feels they have a say in what is best for the store, even the customers — especially the customers. Howe does an excellent job describing everyone and showcasing their distinct personalities. As a reader, you feel like you really get to know these people and feel for them as they struggle to make the store a success. ♦
Samantha Pak can be reached at email@example.com.