Choi, Annie 1976–

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Choi, Annie 1976–


Born, 1976. Education: University of California—Berkeley, B.A., 1998; Columbia University, M.F.A., 2005.


Home—New York, NY. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer. Worked as a textbook editor.


Happy Birthday or Whatever: Track Suits, Kim Chee, and Other Family Disasters, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.


Annie Choi's memoir Happy Birthday or Whatever: Track Suits, Kim Chee, and Other Family Disasters tells about growing up in her dysfunctional Korean American family. ‘Her brother thinks chicken is a vegetable. Her father occasionally starts fires at work. Her mother collects Jesus trading cards and wears plaid like it's a job,’ Cara Seitchek explained in her introduction to an interview with Choi published in the Small Spiral Notebook. The thirteen essays in the volume cover a variety of topics, ranging from Choi's family and friends completely ignoring her birthday to meditations on the realization that her mother has breast cancer. ‘No matter how hard Annie and her family try to understand one another, they often come up hilariously short,’ Seitchek concluded. ‘But in the midst of a family crisis, Annie comes to realize that the only way to survive one another is to stick together … as difficult as that might be."

Choi's most interesting relationship, critics suggest, is between herself and her mother. ‘My mother and I have a very complex, infuriating relationship,’ she told Seitchek, ‘and out of everyone in the family I'd say we fight the most, but also get along the best.’ ‘As Choi's mother said,’ a Kirkus Reviews contributor stated, ‘the parents' job was to provide for their kids, and the kids' job was to go to Harvard.’ The stories, Gillian Engberg concluded in Booklist, ‘are indelible, poignant, and often riotously funny scenes of a daughter's frustrations and indestructible love."

Choi told CA: ‘I never wanted to be a writer. Writing wasn't encouraged when I was growing up. It was always math, science, and Harvard. I started working for a textbook publishing company and my boss recommended that I take professional development writing classes, so I did. The only class that fit my schedule was a memoir class. Then everything kind of went from there.

"I write. I cry. I drink coffee. I write some more. I go to sleep. I wake up. I cross out everything and start again. I don't think I'm a very good writer.

"I've learned that you constantly question yourself, your skills, and more or less your career choice. You just need to rely on yourself and your instincts, and by some miracle, things will be totally fine. Or a total disaster, but that will be fine too.

"I've been hesitant about reading because I've gotten this idea that other people's styles or jokes or observations will seep into my own writing. So I've been reading a lot of avant garde fiction—basically the complete opposite of what I do. Thomas Bernhard's The Loser and Gilbert Sorrentino's Red the Fiend are two of my favorites.

"I hope people can connect to [my] book, no matter what their backgroud is. I write about very specific experiences but I hope that everyone can relate to it and laugh and see past the jokes."



Booklist, March 15, 2007, Gillian Engberg, review of Happy Birthday or Whatever: Track Suits, Kim Chee, and Other Family Disasters, p. 17.

Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2006, review of Happy Birthday or Whatever, p. 1252.


Annie Choi Home Page, (October 1, 2007), author biography.

Small Spiral Notebook, (October 1, 2007), Cara Seitchek, interview with Annie Choi.