#125 ~ Off the Menu ~ Review and ContestNovember 24, 2008 at 12:00 am | Posted in Books, Culture, Reading | 16 Comments
Tags: Asian American culture, book review, Chinese culture, Christine Son, fiction, high school friendship, Houston, interracial adoption, Korean culture, Off the Menu, recipe contest, women's fiction
Today it is my pleasure to serve as Christine Son’s hostess on her blog tour TLC Book Tours. What a great way to kick off the Thanksgiving holiday week! Please see information on her entire tour at the end of this post.
For more information on TLC Book Tours, their authors and all of their wonderful tour dates, please click here.
Whitney, Audrey and Hercules are three Asian women from Houston, TX. They have been friends since high school, where they were each the co-valedictorians of their graduating class. Although they have different goals and dreams for their lives, they meet once a month at Hercules’ restaurant to discuss their lives and achievements. The Valedictorians are about ready to enter their 30s and are all outwardly successful. Inside, they each have anxieties about their lives and their futures that they do not share with each other for fear of what they each might think. Independently, each of the women is bright, but they are sinking without the help of their best friends. They learn that their troubles are best shared and resolved together.
Off the Menu is an interesting look at how three different women who share a similar race can be impacted by that in context of their family and of their country in very different ways. Whitney is the youngest child of a traditional Korean family. While clearly loved by her parents, the emphasis is on education and professional success. Whitney is an up and coming attorney at a prestigious law firm, but what she really wants to do is take a shot at becoming a singer/songwriter. She hides her weekend gigs from her friends and family for fear of how they will react. This secret eventually becomes part of the distance growing in her relationship with her parent-approved Korean boyfriend. Hercules is from a Chinese family. Her mother died when she was 12, leaving her to be raised by her father, a man who never gets over the loss of his wife. Hercules, whose given name is Xiao-Xiao, can never please her father, despite her success as a chef and restaurateur. She constantly struggles dealing with her father’s refusal to assimilate into American culture, with his ailing health, and taking care of his personal financial matters. Audrey was adopted by her billionaire parents from Korea when she was two months old. Her adoptive family is Irish and it is that cultural identity she thinks of first when asked. She often thinks of herself as white because of her surroundings. While her family paints a perfect picture for the rest of the world, family life is not so very pleasant. Her parents, though married, are little more than strangers to each other.
Of all the characters, Hercules was my favorite. I wouldn’t have expected this at the beginning, though. At first I found her to be off-putting. Some of her very first words were f*ck and motherf*cker. Those happen to be my favorite cuss words, but they were like a slap in the face coming right out of the blue. After I got to know her better, I understood that her near constant foul language maintained the walls she built around herself. My reaction to her is just what she would have wanted from any stranger. It instantly moved her behind her wall, keeping me at a distance. She didn’t allow her friends to get much closer, either. When her relationship with her father come to a head at the same time as an eagerly awaited business venture with a college friend, she could no longer shut Whitney and Audrey out. It was a treat to watch her start to blossom from within her darkest moments.
This novel was not at all what I had anticipated. Where I was expecting chick lit about friendship with an Asian twist, I found thoughtful commentary on what it means to be a daughter, a friend, a lover, successful, an American, and a minority. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and learning from their experiences. This would make a perfect book for reading groups and dear friends. I am glad that Son’s husband believed in her dream and bought her a laptop. I’ll be looking forward to reading her next book – no pressure, Christine! ;)
Since it is Thanksgiving week, I thought it would be very appropriate to host a contest with Christine Son that revolves around food. Can’t you smell the turkey now? Well, in the spirit of this novel and its title, I know that there are those who celebrate Thanksgiving with food that falls outside of what is considered traditional. Maybe this is because your family likes to add a cultural flair of your own, your family simply cannot celebrate anything without a particular dish, or you just don’t like turkey. Whatever your reason may be, this contest is for anyone who serves, eats, or even dreams about something off the Thanksgiving menu.
To enter this contest, leave a comment here by the end of the day tomorrow (11/25) explaining why you like to eat something outside of the norm or, if you prepare the traditional Thanksgiving feast, what creative things you do with your leftovers. Then, send me an email with the recipe for that dish (literatehousewife_at_gmail_dot_com). I’ll compile all of the recipes and post them Wednesday morning, giving everyone a little time to drool over other ideas – and perhaps brave the grocery stores for the ingredients. If I get enough entries, I’m going to publish them in PDF format and make the electronic recipe book available to everyone to download.
I will also be sending the recipes to Christine Son. After looking them over during the holiday weekend, she is going to select her favorite recipe. The lucky reader who submitted the winning recipe will win a $15 gift card to the restaurant of their choice (as long as I can buy the card on-line and send it via email) or an Amazon gift card – the winner’s choice.
Good luck to everyone who enters!
Christine Son’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:
Saturday, November 1st: Estella’s Revenge e-zine (author interview)
Monday, November 3rd: Literarily (author guest post and giveaway!)
Wednesday, November 5th: Beastmomma (author interview)
Thursday, November 6th: Book Nut
Friday, November 7th: Ramya’s Bookshelf
Friday, November 7th: Ramya’s Bookshelf (author interview)
Monday, November 10th: Pop Culture Junkie
Tuesday, November 11th: 8Asians
Wednesday, November 12th: Savvy Verse and Wit
Thursday, November 13th: In The Pages
Friday, November 14th: She is Too Fond of Books
Monday, November 17th: Planet Books
Tuesday, November 18th: B & B ex Libris
Wednesday, November 19th: DISGRASIAN
Thursday, November 20th: Booking Mama
Monday, November 24th: The Literate Housewife Review
Tuesday, November 25th: Feminist Review
Wednesday, November 26th: Diary of an Eccentric
To buy this novel, click here.
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