From NY MAG: Paper Tigers
This article was crazy. Gave me goosebumps. Read it from start to finish. It really should be enjoyed that way. But, for those afflicted with ADD, this is the excerpt about your boy boy.
You don’t, by the way, have to be a Silicon Valley hotshot to break through the Bamboo Ceiling. You can also be a chef like Eddie Huang, whose little restaurant on the Lower East Side, BaoHaus, sells delicious pork buns. Huang grew up in Orlando with a hard-core Tiger Mom and a disciplinarian father. “As a kid, psychologically, my day was all about not getting my ass kicked,” he says. He gravitated toward the black kids at school, who also knew something about corporal punishment. He was the smallest member of his football team, but his coach named him MVP in the seventh grade. “I was defensive tackle and right guard because I was just mean. I was nasty. I had this mentality where I was like, ‘You’re going to accept me or I’m going to fuck you up.’ ”
Huang had a rough twenties, bumping repeatedly against the Bamboo Ceiling. In college, editors at the Orlando Sentinel invited him to write about sports for the paper. But when he visited the offices, “the editor came in and goes, ‘Oh, no.’ And his exact words: ‘You can’t write with that face.’ ” Later, in film class at Columbia, he wrote a script about an Asian-American hot-dog vendor obsessed with his small penis. “The screenwriting teacher was like, ‘I love this. You have a lot of Woody Allen in you. But do you think you could change it to Jewish characters?’ ” Still later, after graduating from Cardozo School of Law, he took a corporate job, where other associates would frequently say, “You have a lot of opinions for an Asian guy.”
Finally, Huang decided to open a restaurant. Selling food was precisely the fate his parents wanted their son to avoid, and they didn’t talk to him for months after he quit lawyering. But Huang understood instinctively that he couldn’t make it work in the professional world his parents wanted him to join. “I’ve realized that food is one of the only places in America where we are the top dogs,” he says. “Guys like David Chang or me—we can hang. There’s a younger generation that grew up eating Chinese fast food. They respect our food. They may not respect anything else, but they respect our food.”
Rather than strive to make himself acceptable to the world, Huang has chosen to buy his way back in, on his own terms. “What I’ve learned is that America is about money, and if you can make your culture commodifiable, then you’re relevant,” he says. “I don’t believe anybody agrees with what I say or supports what I do because they truly want to love Asian people. They like my fucking pork buns, and I don’t get it twisted.”