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Happy Birthday, or Whatever

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In our ‘melting pot' country of America, we have people of many different orientations, religions, and culture. Although the setting takes place in the United States, this book gives such a thorough taste of Korean life and relationships that it might very well have taken place in Korea itself.

The basic plot of the book Happy Birthday, or Whatever is made up of many different situations, the majority of which involve Anne's immediate family. The theme of these plots is consistent: the mother's relationship with her daughter, Anne. Whether it's college-settled Anne being driven crazy by her mother's phone calls several times a day or a mother's typical disagreement about her daughter's clothing style, these two characters are always the subjects around which every minor plot revolves.

The aspect that makes this book unique is, without question, its demonstration of Korean culture. This book presents the lifestyle of a young girl being raised by a mother who is strict with her grades, expects her to be fluent in both English and Korean, and strives for her daughter to compete in the middle school spelling bee while she is still only in fourth grade. Her mother is not hesitant in criticizing or spanking either of her kids, both actions which we as Americans are much more careful about doing. Along with these situations, there are also Korean traditions that are much more enjoyable, such as the board games, the road trips, and the wonderful food.

I felt great when I read the book Happy Birthday, or Whatever. Anne's , idiosyncratic, sarcastic attitude and her mother's tough, opinionated personality made the book both a quirky and enjoyable read. I have to admit, I continuously felt lucky that I am not trapped in the strict standard of the Korean culture, even though it did force Anne to grow into a strong and successful woman. Also, it is impossible not to find humor in Ann's mother's accent, which is comically spelled exactly the way it would sound if she were saying it out loud.

I think that a very wide audience would find enjoyment in this book, but that it is most specifically aimed toward girls and young women being of the mother-daughter relationship.





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