From FOB to Fobulous

How Asian Americans are turning an insult upside down.

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/margolove/2757511201/">margolove</a>/Flickr

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Getting called a FOB (“fresh off the boat”) used to be the ultimate put-down for Asian Americans. But “FOB blogs” have turned the insult on its head by celebrating FOB-iness—particularly the culture gap between assimilated Asian kids and their parents. Favorite topics include parental quirks such as excessive frugality, unrealistic academic expectations (“So I heard you got into Harvard for graduate school, that is very…uh…adequate”), and ESL malapropisms (“the itchy, bitchy spider went up the water spout”).

Beyond the filial impiety, there’s a streak of pride, says Suzanne Leung, the 25-year-old cocreator of the blog Absolutely Fobulous: “We really see it as embracing our culture. When we say we’re being FOBs, it’s just being true to where we come from.” Teresa Wu, the 21-year-old behind My Dad Is a FOB and My Mom Is a FOB, says that “Being a FOB’s kid is cool.” She’s learned to take condiment packages from restaurants and “judges prospective husbands for their height, majors, and wealth,” something that may sound familiar to anyone with an immigrant relative, whether it’s a Chinese mom or a Jewish bubbe.

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In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

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