The best moment of “The Wangs vs. the World” comes when young Andrew Wang attempts his first stand-up open mike. He talks honestly about his family, privilege and Chinese-American identity, but it’s only when he does an impression of his father’s broken English that he finally gets “a single shout of laughter.” The entire scene is hilariously cringeworthy, especially when Andrew becomes ashamed mid-act for imitating his father. “You know what white people really, really, really love?” he asks the audience. “When Asian comedians make fun of their parents. Yep, because you guys just want an excuse to laugh at Asian accents.” The crowd is uncomfortable; as a reader, I was overjoyed. “The Wangs vs. the World” is not a book where you laugh at Asian accents — you laugh at the people who would laugh at Asian accents.
Jade Chang is unendingly clever in her generous debut novel about the comedy of racial identity. If there is a stereotype that Asian-Americans kids are quiet, unpopular and studious, that their parents are strict disciplinarians (think Tiger Mom), then Chang has conjured up the Wangs to prove otherwise. Read more