Happy Birthday or Whatever by Annie Choi
Section 2: Pages 45-90
Ten Loaded Words
Revolting (pg. 48)- “a revolting shirt”. The author used this word to describe a three-hundred dollar Versace blouse. By using an intense adjective such as “revolting”, the reader can just imagine how hideous this shirt must have been.
Unobjectionable (p.52)- “These white pants were unobjectionable.” The author used this word to describe an acceptable pair of pants. She has been previously teased for her ugly hand-me-downs, so anything remotely tolerable is fantastic to her.
Exhausted (pg. 59)- “singlehandedly exhausted all the plaid in Scotland.” The author used this word to describe her mother’s new golf wardrobe. By using “exhausted”, the reader understands that plaid is very prominent, too much so for Annie.
Aghast (pg. 59)- “I was aghast.” The author used this when she peeked into her mother’s closet. “Aghast” makes the reader see how different or messy or astonishing her mother’s closet must be.
Hunkered (pg. 61)- “I hunkered in the corner of our booth.” This is written to describe how embarrassed Annie is to be seen with her mother in her plaid ensemble. The reader can picture her body language slumping and trying to go unnoticed.
Freak-out (pg.65)- “I had a major freak-out.” This term is used when Annie has her first day of kindergarten. She is extremely upset that her mother left. By using a childish term like “freak-out”, the reader is taken back to their youth, remembering their temper-tantrums.
White people (pg. 66)- “I had never seen a steeple before, at least not the kind white people put on their IQ tests.” This word has a strong emotional effect because it is about race and doesn’t refer to that particular race is the proper and polite terminology. It is a generalization and is kind of racist. This is possibly the way Annie felt in Kindergarten being the only Asian or may also just be a childish term again to remind us that Annie is young.
Late Bloomer (pg. 77)- “To say I was a late bloomer is like saying childbirth is mildly uncomfortable.” I think late bloomer speaks to a lot of girls and boys going through puberty, or in this case not. I think it would have a very emotional effect on other late bloomers because it must have been tough for them to feel like they are not fitting in.
Grotesque anomaly (pg. 80)- “they saw her as a grotesque anomaly.” This phrase refers to one of Annie’s friends, who was an early bloomer. This situation, like the one above, shows the difficulty of not fitting in as an adolescent. This girl must have really stuck out of the crowd and other girls must have looked at her like she was a Martian.
Womanhood (pg. 83)- “the illusion of Womanhood.” As a pre-teen, womanhood is a very exciting experience and something you really want to happen. This has an emotional effect on most women as they remember when and what is was like when they became a woman.
Ever since she was a teenager, Annie’s mother had great fashion sense. She would wear a business suit to pick up her children from school whereas the other stay-at-home moms would wear sweats and flip-flops. It was her that taught Annie all about fashion and designers. Even so, Annie had awful style as a child. As a tradition in Korea, Annie had no choice but to wear her cousins’ hand-me-downs. And since she was the youngest of cousins, she pretty much got everyone else’s crap with stains and holes dominating the garment. Needless to say, when Annie’s cousins’ heights hit a plateau, Annie was very content to shop for her own clothes and despite her mother’s attempt to get her to wear tweed suits, Annie chose simple, classic items, not necessarily trendy, but acceptable. Soon, when she gained more confidence, she shopped a vintage stores, purchasing several unique pieces and developing her own style, although her mother thought she looked homeless. When Anne left for college, her mother started golfing and developed a new style of plaid and polos, putting Annie to shame.
When Annie started kindergarten, she was considered “special” because her parents did not teach her English, only Korean. As the months went by though, Annie began to understand English better than Korean. This put her in a Korean school by 2nd grade on Saturday. She was held back a year from the start and flunked that 1st year, holding her back 2 years. Annie also attended Church school on Sundays. Attending school seven days a week caused Annie to stress out and her grades to slip, which was not acceptable. So her mother wouldn’t let her take dance classes anymore to give her more time to study. Despite the extra studying in Korean, Annie did not seem to improve and to this day has only the capabilities of a third-grade student in Korea, mixing up words like moth and room. Now she is considered “special” in Korean.
Annie was a late bloomer and felt like a leper in junior high and high school because she didn’t get her period until she was seventeen. In junior high, she would pretend to be a “woman” and joined in on conversations with her friend Christy, who had a sixteen-year-old boyfriend with whom she french-kissed at age 12. Annie was so angry about being a late bloomer that she often cursed her ovaries, once in a dressing room while trying on training bras that didn’t fit. Finally, at her friend’s house, when she was seventeen, Annie begins to menstruate, feeling half indifferent, half powerful, for now she can claim herself a “woman” even though she stands at four feet ten inches.
Reactions: I am still very much enjoying this book. I think it is very well written. I was very interesting to me to find out that Annie’s mother had a good fashion sense. From the earlier chapters, I pictured her mother standing in whatever she thought was hip, even if it didn’t suit her well, but it seems that she is very professional and well-put together despite her current plaid obsession. I also thinks it’s fascinating that Annie went from having no knowledge of the English language to being an expert on it. I previously thought that it was very hard for people to understand English if it was not their first language due to its complexity, but Korean must be even harder if Annie prefers to speak English because it is easier. I think the themes in this book, although extreme, can be quite relatable by all sorts of people.