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From the author of Fresh Off the Boat, now a hit ABC sitcom, comes a hilarious and fiercely original story of culture, family, love, and red-cooked pork
Eddie Huang was finally happy. Sort of. He’d written a bestselling book and was the star of a TV show that took him to far-flung places around the globe. His New York City restaurant was humming, his OKCupid hand was strong, and he’d even hung fresh Ralph Lauren curtains to create the illusion of a bedroom in the tiny apartment he shared with his younger brother Evan, who ran their restaurant business.
Then he fell in love—and everything fell apart.
The business was creating tension within the family; his life as a media star took him away from his first passion—food; and the woman he loved—an All-American white girl—made him wonder: How Chinese am I? The only way to find out, he decided, was to reverse his parents’ migration and head back to the motherland. On a quest to heal his family, reconnect with his culture, and figure out whether he should marry his American girl, Eddie flew to China with his two brothers and a mission: to set up shop to see if his food stood up to Chinese palates—and to immerse himself in the culture to see if his life made sense in China. Naturally, nothing went according to plan.
Double Cup Love takes readers from Williamsburg dive bars to the skies over Mongolia, from Michelin-starred restaurants in Shanghai to street-side soup peddlers in Chengdu. The book rockets off as a sharply observed, globe-trotting comic adventure that turns into an existential suspense story with high stakes. Eddie takes readers to the crossroads where he has to choose between his past and his future, between who he once was and who he might become. Double Cup Love is about how we search for love and meaning—in family and culture, in romance and marriage—but also how that search, with all its aching and overpowering complexity, can deliver us to our truest selves.
Praise for Eddie Huang’s Double Cup Love
“Double Cup Love invites the readers to journey through [Eddie Huang’s] love story, new friendships, brotherhood, a whole lot of eating and more. Huang’s honest recounting shouts and whispers on every page in all-caps dialogues and hilarious side-commentary. Huang pulls simple truths and humor out of his complex adventure to China. His forthright sharing of anecdotes is sincere and generates uncontrollable laughter. . . . His latest memoir affirms not only that the self-described “human panda” is an engaging storyteller but a great listener, especially in the language of food.”—Chicago Tribune
“An elaborate story of love and self-discovery . . . Huang’s writing is wry and zippy; he regards the world with an understanding of its absurdities and injustices and with a willingness to be surprised.”—Jon Caramanica, The New York Times
“Huang is determined to tease out the subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which Asian-Americans give up parts of themselves in order to move forward. . . . Fortunately for us, he’s not afraid to speak up about it.”—The New Yorker
“Huang connects in Chengdu the same way he assimilated in America—through food, hip-hop and a never-ending authenticity, which readers experience through his hilarious writing voice and style.”—New York Daily News
From the Hardcover edition.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
From the Hardcover edition.
Read an Excerpt
When it all came crashing down in Houston, I was dating Connie. I met her on OKCupid, but she claimed she’d seen me on the train before, and in some metaphysical way, I felt like I already knew her, too. She was Chinatown ice cream, a seeming contradiction considering that most Chinatown residents shart their pants when introduced to lactose. Ice cream was a foreign object our bodies rejected, but being raised in America, we wouldn’t be denied. We wanted our gummy bears. We wanted our hamburgers. We wanted our fucking ice cream.
In the Chinatown ice cream truck there was always red bean, green tea, and the dreaded durian, but Connie represented a special flavor that anyone from Rowland Heights to Fairfax, Virginia, would recognize: black sesame. Our parents put red bean in ice cream, and Japanese heads even had matcha, but the greatest contribution my generation of Asian Americans has made to ice cream is undoubtedly black sesame. We’d seen black sesame in tong yuan, fried sesame balls, and even pancakes, but to infuse creamy, whole milk, lactose-laden ice cream with black sesame was extremely fucking future. Each generation must have its own ice cream. This was ours.
We complain about silenced minorities and the lack of Asian-American voices in our culture, but it’s not that we don’t talk. Go to any boba spot or Chinatown ice cream shop on a Friday night, and you’ll hear a lot of chicken talk. If you happen to be reading this book in Alabama, and there isn’t a Chinatown ice cream shop for you to peep game, just go on Yelp, which is also Exhibits A, B, and C for the squawking Chinese American. Nothing encapsulates the over-reduced Chinese-American mind better than Yelp. We aren’t quiet, we aren’t devoid of opinion—we’re an extremely passive-aggressive, tribal, prescriptive people who can’t agree on how we feel about Indians. But it’s extremely East Asian to even ask these questions, i.e., how we should feel about Indians as a group, as a race, but not as individuals? Other Asians—like Filipinos—are much better about these things and much more liberal in their acceptance and understanding of life in general, but if we keep it to the Dogmatic Three—China, Korea, and Japan—every opinion was reductive and authoritarian.
In Korea you have chaebols, in China you have Confucianism-Maoism-Momism, while Japan has legislation on the proper way to fold and present a receipt. I once walked into a 7-11 in Tokyo, got a Pocari Sweat, took a sip of said Pocari Sweat, then walked up to the register to pay. When I reached the counter, homie said to me: “You should not do that in Japan.”
“Drink the Pocari Sweat before you pay.”
“Is this rule specific to Pocari Sweat?”
“No, anything. Do not eat or drink before you pay.”
“Are you from America? ’Cause your English doesn’t sound like you grew up in Japan.”
“I am definitely Japanese. I was born in Japan, then went to high school in California and came back to Japan so I know how people in America drink things before they pay, but you should not do it in Japan. It is very offensive.”
“But I’m paying.”
“It doesn’t matter, I already thought bad things about you.”
“That you are a thief.”
“What if I don’t care what you think?”
“This is very dishonorable.”
It occurred to me early on that as an Asian American what I think about myself doesn’t really matter, nor do intentions, because the ultimate arbiter of our lives is public opinion. We go through our lives making calculations based on expectations and declaring judgments using our advanced research skills despite never really touching, seeing, or feeling the things we’re judging. While the West anchors identity in the autonomous mind—“I think, therefore I am”—Asian identity is the sum of our judgments of other people: “I side-eye, therefore I am.”
Connie was an avatar of Generation Black Sesame but chose to quarantine herself in the old Asian-American mold. On our first date, she told me she had moved to N.Y. from L.A. largely because she read my blog, loved food, and related to everything I said about Asian identity—the power of an ancient culture hurtling forward unbound from arbitrary restraints—but I doubted it. She had been formulating all types of ideas for Baohaus from California; she criticized our forays into vegetarian curry, and seemingly had a plan for my life before ever meeting me. My mom was the same. I’m pretty sure the minute my dad’s Calpico hit the lips of her vagina, she was screaming: “I understand you!” “I know what you need!” “You must keep bar license active!”
Connie was a less effective American remake of my mom cloaked in skin-tight racerback dresses. If you told Connie and my mom to get to the same 99 Ranch Market from the same starting point, my mom would get there twenty minutes faster, taking back streets and residential service roads, while Connie would sit on the 405 driving in the sand, arriving at the 99 Ranch Market after all the good hollow heart vegetable was already bought up.
I’d seen girls like her at Taiwanese-Chinese gatherings for years. My aunts and uncles loved propping them up.
“She has straight A’s! So smart.”
“You must see her play violin, great form, beautiful hands, how you say . . . exaquisite! Yes, exaquisite!”
“Her face very generous will bring luck to a family.”
My cousin Wendy was like this. She went to Yale, was relatively tall, had the titty buffet on smash, and got paraded around at all our events in some derivative of the qipao. It was like she won the Heisman every weekend and did the potluck circuit for her adoring fans. The only thing she didn’t have was bound feet. That would have unified all the belts in her weight class.
Taiwanese-Chinese people just assume we all see the same math so there’s no hesitation when pouring on the compliments. Nor do parents hesitate in pointing out your girl’s bad fortune. For years, I heard complaints about my ex.
“Eddie’s girlfriend, Vivienne, has stingy face. Bad fortune, she will take all your luck.”
“Limp, too! Bad energy. I saw her wipe the table! She doesn’t clean, she just smears the sauce into table more. Who taught her to wipe a table?”
“Eyes are small. Not generous. That’s why she doesn’t want to clean.”
ALL OUR EYES ARE SMALL, WHAT ARE YOU AUNTS AND UNCLES TALKING ABOUT?
Connie was the first woman I ever dated that could have been potluck-approved. For that reason, I stayed in the relationship, because hate-smashing the superficial ideals your race has held over your head is victory between the sheets. She knew kung fu, she had won an East L.A. beauty contest, and her father was a herbal medicinist, but it all felt extremely foreign to me. Not only did she not understand my Dipset references, but all she wanted to talk about was vegetables and being Asian. It was as if her entire life revolved around race and vegetarianism, which after a while start to feel like the same thing. When all else fails in romance, do people just give up and marry the manifestation of their favorite restaurant? I guess that would explain why so many people in middle America look like they married a Cheesecake Factory.
But I couldn’t resist. The relationship started off like the Spring Breakers experience got white glove–delivered to my couch: kung fu grip on the throat, lobster sauce on the walls, Gucci Mane might as well have been watching in a bathtub. She was fresh out of culinary school, working at Dirt Candy, and would come over right after her prep shift in the afternoon ’cause she liked riding reverse while Yo! MTV Raps was on. It was around the time “Rack City”—Tyga’s strip-club anthem—came out, which made me want to throw change around my living room ’cause I’m too cheap to throw Washingtons at someone who’s already agreed to have sex with me. Like George Bush paintings or French Montana records, it was extremely entertaining but devoid of any deeper enrichment.
She was the Carl Lewis of my single life. In record time (thirteen days), she started leaving all her things in my crib, stayed over every night, woke me up at random hours to tell me about sweet potato muffins and ask if I was listening to her. I didn’t realize what was going on until it was too late.
“You know, Serena’s recipes are so smart. We’re making sweet potato muffins at work.”
“Dope,” I mumbled.
“It’s one of those recipes where it’s not just a substitute muffin that isn’t as good as the non-vegan ones, it’s actually so much better.”
“That’s awesome. Nobody wants to be Plan B, not even a sweet potato muffin.”
“Yeah, it really bothers me when people assume vegan food can’t be as tasty. It’s not less delicious because it’s vegan. I think it’s actually better.”
“Vegan discrimination is super fucked up.”
“Are you making fun of me?”
“No, I definitely agree that vegan food shouldn’t be discriminated against, and I’m ready to march.”
“You don’t have to listen to me if you don’t want to.”
“You gotta let me live. It’s two a.m. on a Tuesday and you’re talking to me about vegan food discrimination and sweet potato muffins. Do you think anyone in the universe wants to talk about this right now?”
“Why are you so mean?”
“I’m not mean, I’m just not interested. You need to talk to someone else about the plight of vegan food identity politics.”
“What is wrong with you? You are so crazy!”
“And I really think a lot of people would agree with you. I’ll even agree with you if I can go to sleep.”
“If you don’t want me to be here, you can just tell me.”
In all honesty, I wished she didn’t stay over. The sex was face-melting, but I hated feeling like I was staring the rest of my life in its muffin afterward. I lied to her anyway.
“I want you to be here.”
There was nothing wrong with Connie. My boy David kept saying “she checks a lot of boxes,” and he was right. Connie came into my life, rearranged my kitchen, cleaned my room, befriended Evan, got me eating breakfast, and kept the crib smellin’ like lotion. But it only made me even more suspicious. What did she want? She was definitely trying to trap me, but why me? Why did I deserve this?
And why did she double-plate breakfast?
My room doesn’t even have a door, but my plate got a plate, the eggs had miso, and the salad had microgreens. The food was delicious, the service was incredible, but I was uncomfortable. Everything Connie did made me feel like I was an orphan being relocated to the Russian Tea Room, but I liked my lo-fi lo-life. Evan appreciated Connie more than I did.
“It’s nice having Connie around.”
“Son, this apartment was Iraq before she came.”
“Iraq has its charms. And people in Iraq don’t want to eat kebabs on two plates.”
“Ha ha, yo, why do you care if she uses two plates? She washes them anyway.”
“It just doesn’t make sense! We’re in a shit apartment, why is she trying to make it Le Bernardin?”
“She got plans for herself, my g.”
“That’s what I’m sayin’! She got plans for me and I can tell they’re really bad plans. They’re like Dad’s plans when his friends came over to the house!”
“Fuck, I hated those plans.”
From the Hardcover edition.
"You Want to Know You Have a Home": Eddie Huang on "Double Cup Love"
Even before Eddie Huang's first book, the memoir Fresh Off the Boat, was published, my fellow booksellers and I couldn't turn the pages of the advance copies fast enough, couldn't stop shouting his raucous and very, very funny lines at each other in the office, couldn't wait to introduce readers to one of the sharpest new American voices we'd heard in a while. Ferocious, indelible, pushing boundaries: Huang's profanity- laced, searingly authentic stories of food and family made a perfect fit for our Discover Great New Writers program.
Soon, of course, we weren't the only ones talking about Eddie Huang: in addition to coverage in The New York Times, New York magazine, and others publications, Fresh Off the Boat was adapted as an ABC sitcom. Having ditched a legal career to start the restaurant BaoHaus and make a name for himself as a trailblazing figure in the world of food, Huang proved a restless innovator, savvy entrepreneur, and transfixing storyteller whose journeys of redefinition and engagement with his immigrant heritage bring readers along for a nonstop gonzo ride.
Eddie Huang recently returned to the stage at Barnes & Noble's Union Square store to celebrate the publication of his new book, Double Cup Love: On the Trail of Family, Food, and Broken Hearts in China. Joining Eddie in conversation is Michael Davies, president and CEO of the television production company Embassy Row. The following is an edited transcript. Miwa Messer, Director, Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
Michael Davis: So, Eddie, your first book, Fresh Off the Boat, a smash hit, loved the book. International smash! BaoHaus, your restaurant, incredibly successful. You're doing all kinds of television work, writing scripts, writing movie scripts. What on earth prompted you to write another book? What inside you did you desperately need to get out?
Eddie Huang: We actually admit to this in the book. I have to give credit to Marc Gerald, my visionary agent. Because when we wrote Fresh Off the Boat and while we were doing the press rounds before it came out, he was like, "I need to sell your second book, because if you don't sell it now, you're not going to get as much, and also I need to lock you in and make sure you do this." So Marc was a genius to lock me in before everything happened. And then, there was a date hanging over my head. I was actually really upset that I had sold this book, because I didn't know what I was going to do. But life has a way of finding you. Like, in the third chapter (you guys will get to the third chapter) it talks about how I had signed up for something that I wasn't sure I was going to write, and then, as we went to China and got into it, my life changed. I fell in love with this woman from Scranton, Pennsylvania, and I realized what the book was about.
MD: The book is about so many things. It's a tapestry of your life, myriad things stitched around it. It's part love story, part travelogue, part cookbook, part family saga again, part description of how hard it is to watch Internet porn in China (it's very difficult). Talk about balancing all of those themes while writing this.
You seem to have a relationship to food where, in the article in the New York Times, you talk about how to some extent the cooking stuff is a cover; the food is for show, it's not really substantial.
EH: I always realized that in America, people were like, "Asian cats, we will trust you with our laundry, we will trust you with our food." I was just like, "Well, I don't think I can send a memoir based on laundry, but if I cook really good food and people like it, then they'll come and they'll ask me questions, and they'll be curious about my culture, and then I'll have an opportunity to speak about these things."
We were very strategic. When I opened BaoHaus, my mom and dad were like, "Don't do it; we've been in the restaurant business; you can't do it; we don't believe in you." I even mentioned in the first book, my dad purposely upset me and he poked me. He was like, "You should just go intern for David Chang or something; he'll teach you some things because you're not ready for this." I was like, "Fuck you, man." So we opened it. I think a week later I signed a lease, and I was like, "Fuck you, Dad." Then my brother came up and helped me out. But we both were like, "We're not in this to sell sandwiches forever." I respect people who are cooks for life. But I had so many things to say about the Asian-American experience and how hard it was to create your place in this country, and baos gave me that freedom. Baos were the thing that, like, unlocked it, and people started to pay attention to what I could do, and it enabled me to talk about these things. But I always wanted to write.
MD: And you've written a love story. And like all Shakespearean love stories, this one starts in a Brooklyn dive bar with sizzurp.
EH: Yes, it is a fantastic southern American wine and spirit.
MD: So Dena is an Italian American from Scranton, a background slightly different than your Taiwanese-Chinese- American self-described "human panda" from New York City by way of Orlando by way of D.C. You spend much of the book lamenting trying to come to grips with these different backgrounds. In a conflict still going on? Did you resolve that?
EH: You know, what I realized is that a lot of times . . . Therapists will tell you this, but at the time I didn't have the money to go see a therapist. Now they're telling me these things. I'm like, "I didn't have to write this book; you could have just told me this shit." They're like, "You project." I said, "I'm projecting, but what I was projecting was my own insecurity about being Taiwanese-Chinese-American." Because when you go to Taiwan or you go to China, everyone has comments on how you hold chopsticks, or how you wipe a table, or how you receive a receipt. You never really feel completely Taiwanese or completely Chinese. You always are called "American," or you're like a bit of a fraud in your mind.
But then, in America, it's very clear that people see you as, "You're Taiwanese, you're Chinese, you're different; you're an alien." So I think for a lot of first- and second-generation American immigrants, we don't have a home, so to speak. The diaspora is kind of nomadic, and I started to realize, though, that there's a lot of us here, and there's a lot of us that feel the same way, and the phenomena going on is third culture, where in every city, in every country, there are people like us who are immigrants, and we've created a common culture: What creates community are shared problems. That's what I think the diaspora has around the world, whether you're Jamaican, Puerto Rican, Chinese, Taiwanese. We have shared problems being immigrants, and we've created culture around this, and I think it's beautiful. Because shared problems create community, but what makes us individuals is the personal solutions that we find, and that's what the book is about.
MD: I won't ruin the whole end of the love story. It's actually not in this book. It's in an epilogue on New York magazine's website. But while this is a love story, the majority of the book takes place with you in China and your partner here in New York City. You took the trip with your two brothers, Emory and Evan.
MD: Talk about what sparked the idea for the voyage.
EH: Well, the idea came because I just felt like Fresh Off the Boat is incomplete. It's one part of the story. It's about my family coming to America and creating our place, like a lot of immigrants have. But have you seen the movie Belly? In the movie Belly, is, like, "I've got to go back to Africa." I always related to that aspect of Belly, and I was like, "My story is incomplete if I don't go back to the motherland." So I just reversed it, and I was like, "Let's get back on the boat. Let's go back to China."
MD: Fresh off the boat, back on the boat.
EH: Yeah, back on the boat. The original title was "Back on the Mothership," but people at Spiegel & Grau told me that middle-aged white women prefer titles with "love" in them.
MD: So you went with Emory and Evan. One of the book's most compelling narratives your fraternal bond. You write that your mom used to tell you, "One chopstick, I'll break you; two chopsticks together, they're tougher, but eventually I break you; three chopsticks, if you stick together, unbreakable." Describe her thinking there.
EH: Not true. I have broken three chopsticks. But my mom's thing is really unity in the community. My mom was the biggest proponent of family. She loves family. She always tried to keep us together. I've got to give her credit. I grew up, and I meet a lot of people who are kind of estranged and they don't talk to their brothers. I beefed with Evan three hours before this and tried to smash his computer. Then we were cool. We both calmed down, I went to the gym, and we're best friends, and we came here together. But it is this, like, eternal bond that my family believes in, and we've like cultivated and we've worked on.
I think relationships don't fall out of the sky. A lot of times you read about romances, and you hear about them, and it's like, "Oh, you're the one and I met you and yadda-yadda." It's work. You've got to respect love. You've got to put in time. You've got to work for these relationships. I see all my homies over here on the right side. Yo, we could be friends, too. But these are my friends. I've known them twelve-plus years in the city, and it's like we work on these relationships.
MD: On the topic of family, you've already read something about your father, and just the respect and the love that you have for your dad. There's also a great story about your lifetime of playing driveway basketball games against your father.
MD: Take us back to Orlando, a city we both share in our past, circa the late '90s. Tell us about the first time you beat him at basketball.
EH: Man, my dad playing ball is like Draymond Green, except he doesn't breathe out of his mouth. But my dad is a hack. Right? Once I turned like sixteen or seventeen, I should have been beating my dad. But the problem is, he'd hack me, he'd push me in the bushes, he'd trip me he just did not want to give it up. I hated my dad for years, and it was a funny thing, though, because he just would not let me beat him. Even though I probably should have beaten him fair and square, he did everything to be the king of that court. It wasn't until my first year back from college I could beat him. I'd gone in the weight room, I'd put on some beef, and I came back, and I muscled my pops, but I did it in a mildly disrespectful way. Like, I elbowed my dad, I pushed him I fought him like he fought me. And he didn't appreciate it, but I think we both learned a lot, and that is one of my favorite chapters in the book.
At least in my family, my parents never gave me anything. Like, if I was going to win anything or get one off on them, I was going to earn it. I think it's a beautiful thing my dad did, always pushing me around, always kind of like putting me down and making me come back. Because he built strength. Whether it was basketball or working in his restaurant as a line cook/manager, he always gave me something to work on. He never told me I was fine. He never told me I was good. He kept giving me things. He was like, "I'm going to make this kid beat me." Like, on the basketball court, I had to take him off the court. And I think for parents and OGs, it's like you don't feel like the world is in good hands until the next generation can literally take it from you. I think that's your job as young cats.
MD: We touched briefly on China earlier did this trip to China change your relationship with China itself? Did you come away feeling differently about it?
EH: Every time I travel to any country, it changes my relationship with myself, my home country, and then that country. I remember going to Toronto recently, and I was like, "This feels like an entire city of Queens." It's very diverse, it's very ethnic, the food is flames but people are really nice. And they live in houses that look like Flushing, Queens, or Forest Hills. So Toronto really changed the way I viewed . . . Drake and Queens . . . I was like, "He's just a nice actor."
But also, China, the thing is China is changing, and the things that you see as China, they're just fading away. It's constantly like China is breaking through that plaster mask that I remember reading about in in high school. Walls that there were there are being punched through there isn't a new building there necessarily, it's just erosion and destruction and change. But it's beautiful. China is in a period now where people put their heads down. That government had a plan to pull a billion people out of poverty. Everybody around the world judged this plan, and yes, there were human rights violations, terrible environmental issues, and a lot of the authoritarian politics you have to question. But when you go now, you see the results of their plan, and they have a lot of their industries, they own their own telecom, they have their own energy they have a lot of their own properties. I was like, This is smart, in a lot of ways, what they did. Because they incubated this entire society, lifted a billion people out of poverty, and protected it.
But the thing now people are fighting for is they want more interaction with the outside world. A lot of people in China feel like goldfish, where they can see the world but they can't touch it. That's going to change, and that firewall will eventually come down. It's a very interesting thing to see, but . . . I think there are a lot of things to question about China, but there's a lot to learn. I think that we should really pay attention.
MD: The fourth pillar of the book is food. Your trip to China allowed you to immerse yoursel in the cuisine of Chengdu and Shanghai, everything from crayfish to a hotpot. The latter caused some tense moments on a bus trip towards the end of the book. You didn't just eat. You also set up shop and cooked yourself. What was your goal as a chef during that trip, as a cook? Was there any goal?
EH: My goal as a chef was to cook the food that I ate at home. The food that I ate in my mother's home, the food that I've been cooking in my home, my apartment that I share with my brother. Then going to China and asking, "Are we doing this right as Chinese people? Is this Chinese food?" I realized everyone ate it, and they said, "There is nothing like this." That's what's interesting, too. You eat one dish in your different aunts' homes and uncles' homes. They all cook it differently. But for some reason, because I'm an Asian born in America, I always question if mine was OK. I never question if my aunts' were OK or my uncles' even though they were all different. I questioned mine, because no one ever kind of cosigned my existence.
So going back, they were like, "Look, it's different; we've never had anything like it. But it's absolutely Chinese, and we can see the things that you are doing here, we can see the references, and we can see literally the fingerprints and conditioning of your experience from D.C. to Orlando to Taiwan to China. We can tell where your parents are from, we can tell where they were born, and we can tell your American influence as well." So really, your DNA is in the food. It really, really is.
MD: The great Orlando influence on Chinese cuisine.
EH: The Orlando influence.
MD: What were the most memorable meals you ate while you were there? What did you eat that blew you away?
EH: Most memorable things I ate. The pigfoot soup with soybeans and seaweed. It doesn't sound incredible. It is the most luscious, delicious soup I ever had in my life. It's just like pure collagen and sea salt and seaweed and soybeans. It's delicious.
I had a roasted rabbit's head. I'm not saying this to gross you out. The roasted rabbit's head really was the most delicious thing. You pick the bones around the head, the crevices; it's really, really good. It's like eating a lamb shank, but like crispier and thinner. It's like finer, fibrous meat.
Tea-smoked duck. Incredible. I had great tea-smoked duck. The boiled crayfish was really good.
But the dish I enjoyed making the most was my Taiwanese beef noodle soup. To serve Taiwanese beef noodle soup in Chengdu and be received the way it was that was a watershed moment. It's really cool to go home and hear, "You did all right, kid; you did all right."
You want to know that you have a home. You want to know that you did right by where you're from.
MD: In the last few pages of the book, you write: "It isn't acceptance that extinguishes us; instead, it awakens us."
MD: Was that the big takeaway ultimately from the experience?
EH: I went through a real funky period after Fresh Off the Boat came out in 2013. It's been well documented how I kind of flamed out in 2014.
MD: Well, by your own choice.
EH: I was beefin' with VICE a lot. And I was struggling, because I'd been an underdog, I'd been fighting my whole life, and I did not deal well with being accepted. I didn't deal well with people not questioning me and not challenging me. And I learned: Challenge yourself. You have to accept who you are. You have to accept the life that you've created. And you have to accept how humans and your character and spirit will evolve. Tony Kushner wrote this thing about shedding skins. I just really hung on to my old skin, and I didn't want to let it go. But the thing I learned through this journey to China and writing this book is: When your skin is ready to go, you have to let it go.
MD: In some ways, the positive of that is that second albums are notoriously hard. But you dealt so badly with the success of your first album, it gave you all the material to go and use again in your second.
EH: Yes, definitely. There was a lot of pain. And honestly, the funniest thing, the thing that really kept me going while writing this (and I'm not being funny) was Future's Dirty Sprite 2. I just listened to Dirty Sprite 2, as I was editing this. Because he'll mumble on songs, like, "Imma get'chu back; bitch left me; imma get'chu back." It was funny, because he'd be like braggadocious and saying, "Yeah, I'm on this, man; I'm doing this, I'm doing that, zanz, zanz, zanz," but then he'd just mumble, like, "Imma get her back."
MD: Do you mumble during your writing?
EH: I mumble all the time, man.
MD: I can't imagine you sitting at a computer or a laptop or pen-and-paper, and actually being quiet and writing. I can't imagine you doing that.
EH: It's a side of me that my really good friends have seen. But I can sit in a chair for literally twelve hours, and listen to the same song on loop.
MD: You listen to the same headphones?
EH: No, playing. I have to have it out, auditory. If I know I have something to say, I cancel the day, I sit in a bathrobe, and I just start playing songs, and then one of them is like, "That's how I feel today."
MD: Do you write and then rewrite immediately, or do you just write it all out and get it all out there?
EH: I think Chris Jackson would prefer if I wrote and rewrote. But no, I don't. I just kind of write. I just write it, and then I deal with it later. I believe in just getting it all out; coming back a few days later, looking at it again; coming back a couple of weeks later and looking it at later. The things you write on paper have a life of their own, and you have to let them marinate, and you come back. It's a person you're talking to. Because the person that you think you are, the person that you look at in the mirror is different than the person on paper. I think the person on paper is the most difficult one to look at. It's the most honest one. Because it's very permanent, and it's starting you in the face. There's nothing that distracts you. There's no visual, there's no sound, there's no smell. It's just fucking words on paper that came out of your head.
MD: Knowing you, you want that to be genuinely you, and nothing other than genuinely you.
EH: Yeah. You can tell when you're fighting yourself. You come back a day later, you don't feel the same way, you don't believe it as much you're like, "I'm lying." To me, writing is about honesty.
MD: Final two questions for me. One: What are the chances this becomes a sitcom on ABC?
EH: I think zero. I'm pretty sure zero 0%. Twentieth still owns the rights to me as a character.
This one is a book. I don't know why I'm emotional for a second . . . But this one is a book.
MD: It's not going to be anything else.
EH: Yeah. I want to say the right thing. What happened with the first one is really tough. What happened with the first book was very tough. I will not let it happen to this book. This one is closer to home.
Fresh Off the Boat is a kid that had been silenced for a long time, and told he was a silly Chinaman and was not allowed to say shit for a long time, and I fought it and I fought it, and I kicked the door down and I wrote that book. I go back and I read that book, and I don't feel the same way. I'm not that angry, and I learned to accept myself. I learned that: You know what? The world isn't against me. Professor X, when he puts on Cerebro, there's a lot of mutants out there. There's a lot of mutants, there's a lot of weirdos, and that makes me feel good.
June 22, 2016
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is a great follow up to Fresh off the Boat. Where the first book navigated us through Eddie's mind in a "me vs. society" storyline, this book shows us the "me vs. myself" battle. In both books Eddie is so honest about his experiences and emotions you cant help but appreciate someone writing this way. It is also a great example of growth and evolution. I love how it began as a story about going back home, and ended up being a love story and realization for himself. And as always... the hip hop culture continues to stay present.
To be honest, the book started off good, but it felt a little confusing at times. At one point you are intrigued about Dena, then at other times you are in a cab ride with him bantering with Chinese citizens. It was a decent book, but I left feeling like I wanted more of the romantic comedy, and less about kitchen tales. Worth buying and checking out, but I feel mixed about it.