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Happy Birthday or Whatever: Track Suits, Kim Chee, and Other Family Disasters

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  1,008 ratings  ·  200 reviews
Meet Annie Choi. She fears cable cars and refuses to eat anything that casts a shadow. Her brother thinks chicken is a vegetable. Her father occasionally starts fires at work. Her mother collects Jesus trading cards and wears plaid like it's a job. No matter how hard Annie and her family try to understand one another, they often come up hilariously short.

But in the midst o
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Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 3rd 2007 by Harper Perennial (first published April 1st 2007)
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Susie
Jul 14, 2011 Susie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who like Daria and/or Lane Kim? Ok weird target audience, but whatever.
I really love Annie's writing style; she feels like someone I'd be friends with. And her mom felt like someone I *want* to know! Each of her mom's quick retorts had me laughing as hard as Annie's "can-you-believe-this-crazy-lady" set ups.

I really related to a lot of the author's embarrassment about her family (which comes from a place of loving her family's quirks, obviously, not resenting/hating!) I went through the exact same thing with my mom when I wanted to wear thrift store clothes, becam
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Steve
Jul 28, 2007 Steve rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Makes me wish I had written this book, except I'm nowhere near as funny and talented as the author. Growing up Asian American, I've seen all sorts of embarrassing shit I've tried to bury in my past. Annie Choi brings that stuff front and center. Makes me think my family was way normal by comparison. But it's not just for people with a chinky background. Everybody will find something they can identify with, poke fun at, and even get choked up over. It's a quick read, but a lot of fun and even tou ...more
Badly Drawn Girl

This book is truly a first, for me, ... a laugh out loud collection of essays! I am told that I have a great sense of humor but for some reason I never laugh while reading. Books that are supposed to be funny usually make me roll my eyes. I cannot tell you how many "funny" essays have left me cold. Too often what passes for funny is just sarcastic and over-embellished. Annie Choi has breathed new life into this genre. Here are essays that are not just funny but filled with warmth. Her love of fa
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nina
Sep 24, 2007 nina rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: asian-authors, memoir
This book is hilarious! I picked it up at the bookstore and had to buy it then and there. I read passages to anyone who will listen, and to anyone who can tolerate the interruptions of my laughter and wheezing.

This book is a collection of stories and anecdotes about being Korean-American, but you don't have to be Asian to appreciate Annie Choi's writing. She takes serious subjects like cancer and relationships and makes them humorous, manageable.

For anyone who has:
* been forgotten on a birthday
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olivia
Jul 29, 2007 olivia rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: korean american girls everywhere
at first, i was afraid this book was all margaret cho-esque, as in, based solely on the humor of mom's inability to speak english. and it started out that way. but then, it got better. and it actually got funnier. it was witty and humorous but also something deeper than that. and of course, as a korean american 2nd generation girl, it resonated with me. i don't know that it would resonate as well with people from different backgrounds, though, especially as i noticed in many places the korean wo ...more
Tima
This book was so-so. It wasn't the best memoir I've ever read but it certainly wasn't the worst (COUGH Klonopin Lunch: A Memoir COUGH).

Annie is just about as stereotypical as you could get, in a lot of ways. A vegetarian Berkeley graduate who disappoints her Korean parents, frequently. There were some cute essays that really make you adore her parents, but she herself sounds like a very boring person to know.

She wrote about trips to Korea that she didn't appreciate, she wrote about family func
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Lisa
Sep 21, 2013 Lisa rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: humor, dnf
Ho Hum.
While I love things that make me laugh, often times so called humor books, movies, tv shows fall flat for me. So feel free to ignore this review if you disagree, but humor that is forced, or in this case, painful doesn't work for me.
The ultimate test for me: I checked it out and read the first 41 pages and have renewed it twice without picking it up again because it is due soon.
Roadhouse
A painful experience.

I almost gave up on this book, but I was able to turn the book into something entertaining.

The only reason I finished this book is because of the Mom that was referenced in the book.

The mother is Korean. When I read the quotes from the Mother, I added a hilarious broken English accent in my head. It made me laugh.
Brittany
Jun 20, 2008 Brittany rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of Margaret Cho or readers of memoirs
This was actually an extremely fun book to read--Choi tells several stories about growing up with her (Korean) family, especially her mother, in a comic and engaging way. If you happen to be like me, and grew up watching the early comedy of Margaret Cho (WHAT IS THIS ASS-MASTER? DOES IT MASTER THE ASS?!), you'll probably really enjoy this book.
lisa
pretty disappointing, especially since it has been on my to read list for ages.

(review pulled from lj.)
Brenna
Annie Choi, you have to write more about your life! I need itttt!

This was great, I love how honest and fun Choi's writing is and how funny this book was. Though by the end of it her family was making me so mad, seriously I wanted to bitch out family members for her. It's the same with other biography's I have read on Asian culture and respect. Examples: not able to bring boyfriends home for fear of disappointing her parents, not speaking up or defending herself when being pushed into doings thin
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Alisha Marie
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
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Carelle
Happy birthday or whatever: Track suits, Kim Chee and Other Family Disasters is an autobiography (242 pages) written by Annie Choi, a Korean girl that was born and raised in the States. In this book, Annie talks about the important moments in her life and about her crazy family. With a brother who thinks that chicken is a vegetable, a father that occasionally starts fires at work, and a mother that collects Jesus trading cards, Annie finds it really hard to live a normal life. And, how can she f ...more
Corielle
Annie Choi’s memoir, Happy Birthday, or Whatever, was not the best I’ve ever read or anything, but it was cute and funny and a good distraction for a few hours. I snagged it off my sister’s bookshelf when I helped her move this weekend, and read it the next afternoon. Choi’s chapters move briskly, as she describes her upbringing in Los Angeles as the daughter of Korean immigrants, constantly straddling the line between two cultures.

Most of the stories take place in her childhood, with a few duri
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Tara Thai
I picked up this book by Annie Choi on another of my quickies at the airport.
Not much time…just pick up what grabs your attention kind of deal.
I wasn’t looking for anything in particular from this book…I was more after an easy, fun read than on a mission to discover the meaning of life.
And that’s exactly what I got. An easy, fun reading.
The book is about Annie’s family, strugglying in limbo between their new american culture and their strong korean roots.
The result…a long series of family disast
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Catherine
I love Annie Choi's blog; love it. Love her funny voice and unique perspective on things. So I thought I'd really, really love this memoir.

Well...it was okay, I guess. Good for a few laughs here and there. There was just too much emotional distance for me to really connect with it, though. Like, this big major thing happens in her family, and from reading the back of the book, it's a major turning point. Up till that point, Choi has mostly just made fun of her mom (and sometimes her fat brother
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HM
Sep 04, 2007 HM marked it as to-read
I've looked at this book about three times in the stores...but have yet to buy it. (Only because I know that I should be spending reading time doing "school stuff," but that is SOOOO less fun than pleasure reading! :)

It's another memoir...I am thinking along the lines of the "But Enough about Me" book...so here's the blurb from the back of the book:

Meet Annie Choi. She fears cable cars and refuses to eat anything that casts a shadow. Her brother thinks chicken is a vegetable. Her father occasio
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Jeanette
I know I’ve been talking about Annie Choi’s incredibly funny memoir as the ideal book for the Asian-American audience that loved YELL-OH GIRLS and THE DIM SUM OF ALL THINGS. But while I still believe that it’s great for Asian American young women, I also think that this is the perfect book for anyone who’s ever been exasperated by her mother no matter their ethnicity. Annie’s stories about her mother’s growing fascination with golf clothes, how her mother still doesn’t understand that vegetarian ...more
Suzie
Essays about Annie Choi's life growing up in a loving buy dysfunctional Korean American family. This is not a bad book. As memoirs go, it isn't a great one either.

The funny parts are not as funny as Shalom Auslander's Foreskin's Lament. The quality and selection of the funny/neurotic parts varies too much. The family stuff isn't as deep as Amy Tan. When you put it up against something like Angela's Ashes that has both in spades? It comes up sorely lacking. Granted, I don't think Choi set out to
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Sandra Lopez
Two words can only describe this book: Funny and Sarcastic.


Annie Choi compiles a wonderful collection of short stories about growing up and family dysfunction.


In “Spelling Bee,” we learn how little Annie must prove to her Korean mother that she won’t end up in the street holding a sign that reads “Will Werk for Food.”


In “Stroke Order,” Annie tries to “[reclaim] the language she once knew and then forgot and then rejected.” (pg. 75)


The family was absolutely hilarious when they tell Annie to on
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Kyusik Chung
Hilarious read for Korean Americans and those with Korean-American friends.

Annie Choi's Happy Birthday or Whatever is hilarious! As a Korean American, I could hear the voices of her family and relatives and I could completely relate with their craziness. You don't even realize how crazy your culture is until someone collects all the stories in a single volume. It was also a great read for my wife, as she tried to understand my roots.

My main criticism of this book is that it ends abruptly. It's a
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Shirley
I really enjoyed this memoir about a Korean-American girl and her wacky (well, maybe just Korean) family (focusing on her mom) - it was pretty funny and authentic (seemingly rife with stereotypes, but what can you do when they're reality? Yes, Koreans are obsessed with Harvard and with their daughters marrying doctors or lawyers. True story: I had a college boyfriend who eventually went to med school. Years later, a family friend asked me why I broke up with him, pointing out in all seriousness, ...more
Nitya
This book was light reading, and very fun. A memoir about growing up first generation Korean-American in California, with parents who expect you to go to Harvard and be a doctor or lawyer, or else you're a failure. To me, this was mostly about Annie Choi's relationship with her mother, and there are some really funny parts, and some touching ones. One scene that cracked me up was when Annie and her brother, as children, have to ceremonially bow in front of their grandmother, in Korea, at a huge ...more
Kepanie
I give this book 3.5 stars.

I needed to read a memoir for a change. When I had first started Annie's book, it was a bit whiny. But as I settled into her memories, I started to enjoy her writing and growing up experience.

I am Asian-American but my ohana is very Americanized so I didn't really have the generation clash nor have to grow up with face. I found it interesting to read about the author's childhood. Her chapters on school, fashion, and Korean school had me rollin'! They were the funniest
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Hot Cup O'Monkey
Mar 12, 2008 Hot Cup O'Monkey rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
I just finished reading the memoir "Happy Birthday or Whatever." It was really good; very humorous, but revealing as well. It's by a young woman--I think it's Margaret Choi-- whose parents are Korean immigrants. So she explains, quite humorously but also there is some pathos in there, about dealing with lots of cultural conflicts.
For ex., she had to wear these awful hand-me-downs from all her Korean cousins. One of these horrible outfits had the slogan, something like, "Fun of Soup Brings Sprin
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Arminzerella
Annie Choi is hysterical. And I think her mother just got on her last nerve. But you would feel the same way if she gave away one of your stuffed animals every time one of your cousins or distant relations came to visit. So unfair! Happy Birthday or Whatever is Annie Choi’s collection of vignettes about her life, her mother, her relationships, and her own personal quirks. She’s got a lot of personality and vitality crammed into her tiny frame and she loves, loves, loves her family even though th ...more
Sara Scott
Happy Birthday or Whatever is Annie Choi's story about her and her crazy Korean family. She describes what goes down when she gets a B+ on a spelling test, randomly decides to become a vegetarian, and still hasn't married at 28. Annie starts the book off with her parents forgetting her birthday, and them trying to play is off cool. Through out the book she talks about trying to learn Korean, having her mom annoy her constantly, and of course having to go to the family reunions. Happy Birthday or ...more
Katie M.
I feel weird about this book. The writing isn't stellar, but that's neither here nor there. On the one hand - yay, let's hear it for all the exasperating and hilarious things we love about our dysfunctional Korean-American families! On the other - it was written for a mainstream audience, which makes it disturbingly easy to read it as nothing more than a collection of tired stereotypes reinforced for lolz (see: Ku, Esther). I take particular issue with the liberal use of her parents' broken Engl ...more
Melissa
I really loved this book! The author finds humor in everyday life (although, I have to say, her everyday life is quite extraordinary) and I felt like I was by her side living through some of the hilarious situations as she wrote them. Anne goes back from childhood and traces her steps growing up in a Korean family. From her hilarious parents to her elderly grandmother, Choi makes you want to be in her family, if only for a day. While Choi wrote the book to be a comedy, there are times that made ...more
Yun
Sep 10, 2010 Yun rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people looking for something fast and funny to read.
This book is not particularly insightful, or thought provoking, but I'm giving it a 4 star purely for the entertainment value.

I found myself laughing out loud many times while reading this book. I must admit the entertainment may have been felt more because of my Korean-Canadian background but it is worth being able to laugh about some things about my family that I grew up being embarressed about. It was very comforting to read and laugh about the same things I experienced in my past.

The mothe
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