Happy Birthday or Whatever by Annie Choi
Section 4: pages 129-160
In this chapter, a 15-year-old Annie decides to become a vegetarian after a friend read a book by John Robbins and discouraged Annie from eating animals because they were bad for everything and everybody. This is an action not accepted by Koreans, though. At almost every dinner at least one person tells Annie to “eat meat”; whether it’s because she “looks skinny” or she’ll “get jaundice.” Often, her mother will call her just to ask if she’s still in her vegetarian phase. Despite the attempts to get her to eat meat, Annie has remained a vegetarian for 13 years; though even she admits becoming vegetarian was mostly about rebellion.
This chapter focuses on the devil of the family, Annie’s paternal grandmother. She is feared by many, including Annie’s mother and father, and she likes nothing. One time when Annie was 8-years-old, she had to bow a special bow for her grandmother’s 70th birthday. Although she practiced, her hanbok, too long, and petticoat, too itchy, prohibited her from bowing properly. She landed smack down on her bottom. Her grandmother, displeased, did not even nod her head as she had done for Annie’s cousins who bowed before her. Annie cried for hours. To this day, Annie still despises her grandmother and upon seeing her in Korea a few years ago, Annie’s relationship with her worsened when her grandmother both threw away a cashmere sweater gift and made Annie eat fish.