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Happy Birthday or Whatever: Track Suits, Kim Chee, and Other Family Disasters Paperback – Bargain Price, April 3, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (April 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0641986696
  • ISBN-13: 978-0641986697
  • ASIN: B001O9CF72
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #517,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Choi's volatile relationship with her domineering, chronically dissatisfied mother is at the heart of this memoir, a funny and often moving account of growing up in a family of Korean immigrants. The parent/child compact in Choi's childhood home was as follows: Mommy and Daddy's job is to take care of the child; the child's job is to study hard, go to Harvard and become a doctor. But Choi and her mother face each other across a seemingly unbridgeable divide: Annie has little desire to embody traditional Korean feminine virtues (and no desire to be a doctor); her mother—to whom social status is everything—cannot countenance her daughter's "shortcomings." Whether recounting the shame of bringing home a B-plus on a fourth-grade spelling test (a clear indicator that she's destined for an inferior institution) or the greater horror of having to wear Korean clothes to American school ("The fun of soup bring Spring" reads one pair of her tracksuit bottoms), Choi adds acid wit—mixed with compassion—to her descriptions of immigrant life in the San Fernando Valley. This is that rare book that delivers more than it promises; Choi tackles the theme of mother/daughter conflict with grace and humor. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Mining the age-old tensions between mothers and daughters, Choi's strong debut is an uproariously funny memoir of growing up with her Korean American family in Los Angeles. Many stories expose the specific struggles of children of immigrants. When she entered kindergarten, for example, Choi was placed in a remedial learning program because her school didn't have an ESL specialist. Other stories focus on familiar mother-daughter battlegrounds (when her mother asks her to wear an ensemble that Choi describes as "appropriate for Paul Revere's stable boy," she writes, "I felt she had stopped loving me") and on the universal adolescent feelings of a self-described "late bloomer": "Anyone could confuse my back for my chest." From the elementary-school memories of her mother's tough-love academic views--"Don't be baby! You not wear diaper no more. You have to practice so you get A"--to the phone exchanges when college-age Choi learns of her mother's breast cancer, these are indelible, poignant, and often riotously funny scenes of a daughter's frustrations and indestructible love. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Annie Choi is the author of two books (so far): Happy Birthday or Whatever and Shut Up, You're Welcome. She received her BA from the University of California, Berkeley, and her MFA in writing from Columbia University. Her work has appeared in White Zinfandel, Urban Omnibus, and Pidgin Magazine, among others. She was born and raised in Los Angeles but now lives in New York. Visit her site at AnnieTown.com.

Customer Reviews

It really is the best first book I've ever written.
Annietown
Annie Choi compiles a wonderful collection of short stories about growing up and family dysfunction.
Sandra's Book Reviews
How wonderful is it when you read a book that makes you literally laugh out loud.
Cashew

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Annietown on April 1, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I noticed that on Amazon, authors don't review their own books. I can see why. They don't want to gloat and talk about how amazing their books are or come off as arrogant. No one likes arrogant people. Even arrogant people don't like arrogant people. Truth. But honestly, you guys, this is the best first book I've ever written. I mean that. Even though I have not written any other first books, this one is much, much better than those because 1) it's written and 2) it's the best. This is an iron clad argument.

When my mother read this book, she read half of it (the first half) and got angry (which means it is a good book) and then got angry at my brother for allowing me to write this thing (again, to be clear, this is a good book). My brother wondered how any of this book was his fault. The dirty dishes in the sink are definitely his fault, but this book is not. The book is actually my fault, though I hate to point any fingers. When my mother read the rest of the book (the second half), she was all, ohhhh, I get it. She figured it all out. She realized that I, in fact, love her dearly even though she can be the biggest pain in the ass. My father LOVED this book (because it is the best) and told my mother "Maybe if you were nicer to Annie, she wouldn't have written a book about you." My father is a wise man. He is also a pain in the ass. So in that sense, my mother and father have a lot in common. When my brother read the book he said, "It's OK." Note that this is the highest praise my brother gives across the board. There's "sucks," "I hate it," "This is a mistake," "This should be taken to the streets and tortured in a public forum," and "It's OK." Mike says this book "is OK." For that reason alone, I consider this book a grand achievement.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Aaron Isaksen on April 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a great memoir and really hilarious! Its just as good writing as Augusten Burroughs or David Sedaris, and written in a similar witty and sarcastic tone. But Choi's stories are much more accessible and way easier to relate to, yet the author and her family are still quite crazy in their own way. She has an incredible voice and the dialogue is very funny. My girlfriend read it and she really liked it too. I recently saw her read from the book at Barnes and Noble and it was one of the best readings I've ever been too...very entertaining and she had us all laughing.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By endlesswonderofreading VINE VOICE on June 8, 2010
Format: Paperback
Let me just start out by saying that Happy Birthday or Whatever was a thoroughly enjoyable read. The author, Annie Choi, writes about her family with wit and sarcasm and you just can't help but laugh at her somewhat tense relationship with her mother.

The thing that I loved most about this book was that it was heartwarming and humorous. There are a lot of memoirs out there written about a dysfunctional family that are depressing. "My mom was a bitch to me. My dad left and didn't care that we had no income. My brothers and sisters were homeless." Yes some of those types of memoirs tug at my heart strings, but it was refreshing to read one in where the family is dysfunctional but love each other while not really standing one another.

Even if you aren't Korean, you'll love this novel. It's relateable to anyone who has felt embarrased or annoyed at their family members or felt that they wouldn't live up to the expectations that were set by them by their family. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a memoir about a slighly dysfunctional family, yet want to laugh out loud. I read this book in about four hours and had to stay up late to finish it. I just couldn't put it down.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Joanne Edelman on April 30, 2007
Format: Paperback
What a delightful read! Annie Choi writes with warmth and wit as she shares her experience growing up as a Korean-American in Los Angeles. It is a personal story told with self-deprecating humor focusing on her relationship with her mother. Though her Korean-American experience is central to her memoir, it is also the story of many immigrant families attempting to blend traditional customs with the new in a land where so many describe themselves as hyphenated Americans. Annie shows herself to be a rebellious child endlessly arguing with her mother over wearing hand-me-down clothes and being pressured to be the perfect straight "A" student, but as she matures, she develops a deep affection for her mother, her family, and her cultural heritage. I anxiously await her next book!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By RaevenAngel on April 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
If you were ever born, you can probably relate to something in this book! The only problem I had with it is that it wasn't longer. Ms. Choi's writing made me see and hear all the family members in her book, and also made me giggle a lot. Unfortunately, as these things go, I finished it in 4 short, giggly hours. I would recommend it to anyone though, because most people have families, and if you have one, you can certainly sympathize with some of the situations in the book. I can't wait to read something else from her!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Carissa K. Dougherty on July 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
This was quick, humorous read. Choi has a voice not dissimilar to David Sedaris -- ironic, self-deprecating, and filled with insider jokes. I especially like that Choi is from "my generation" -- really makes the scenarios come alive with references to '80s pop culture and modern digital culture. I hope she writes more!
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