Californians Teresa & Serena Wu shared with us their experiences and ongoing adventures since they founded mymomisafob.com and mydadisafob.com. This project, launched by creative assignment, garnered immense popularity within its first week, and will become a book published by Penguin’s Perigee books. “F.O.B.” standing for “fresh off (the) boat”, used to be a derogatory term for immigrants, but through their good-natured humor, “fob: is evolving into a more beloved and endearing term.  We tip our super-size sun visors to visionary and accidental pioneers like Teresa & Serena.

Ellice Park: How do you manage your two sites?

Teresa Wu: Serena manages http://mydadisafob.com, I manage http://mymomisafob.com.  She takes care of the technical stuff, and I run the social media stuff.

Jenny Robinson: Was there a particular incident that inspired you two to make these sites?

TW: I had done a creative writing assignment for one of my classes where I just strung together a bunch of emails and conversations I had with my mom and it got a really awesome response from the prof/class.  I’d always posted funny snippets from my mom in my blog so I mentioned the idea to Serena and she thought it’d be funny too.  We started gathering emails from out own moms and from our friends and… site was born =)

JR: Did you and your friends ever get feedback about the site from your parents?

TW: Serena’s mom thinks it’s hilarious and wants to be friends with all the other Asian moms, with my mom, I have to explain all the posts to her because she’s so fobby she doesn’t understand why they’re funny.

EP: Were you and Serena born/raised in California?  I lived in CA for two years and it was basically Asia #2.

TW: We were both born/raised in California, in Fremont which is SUPER Asian.  Our high school was 70% Asian.  I think having a big community of Asians around made it easier to celebrate our fobbiness.

EP: Being in a diversely Asian community, do you see yourselves as just Asian American, or do you identify with your ethnicity?

TW: I definitely see myself as Taiwanese American… if you grew up in a less diverse area I could see why you might just identify as Asian American, but since we have SO MANY ethnicities I do think people identify with their individual cultures.

Serena Wu: same, in high school we had multicultural week and a lot of my friends were Indian and we’d attend their Indian potluck parties once in awhile, so it was a good mix.  But I never really thought of myself as Taiwanese American until I started attending Taiwanese American conferences and such.

EP: I feel that it is awesome that you two created something that doesn’t enhance the lines between Asians, but rather unifies Asian Americans and yet, how pronounced each ethnicity might be?

SW: Freshmen year of college, I had this discussion w/my roommate who went to a school in Los Angeles which was also very Asian, and she said there was an intense Chinese vs. Taiwanese debate at her High School, though that was never an issue for us at our high school.  Everyone was just… friends.  No one was really I’M KINDA INDIAN or I’M THIS KINDA CHINESE. Wasn’t very… discriminatory.  The community itself was very multicultural and everyone embraced each other’s cultural differences.

TW: The thing that’s great about the site is that yeah, we do have distinctly different identities, but Asian Americans all grew up with so many similarities, things like our parent’s attitudes towards academics… sex… you name it.

SW: The sites aren’t very representative of our backgrounds necessarily; since we get submissions from literally, all sorts of people even Russian immigrants.  The sites show how we’re never really self-conscious or embarrassed about having first-generation parents because most, if not all of our friends did as well, so it was never like we experienced any racial stereotyping, name-calling, any of that

EP: Has the way you viewed the project evolved at all?

SW: The project has definitely evolved, I mean we started it as something just for fun, but Now we’re being published by Penguin’s perigee books, definitely something we’d ever imagine happening.  Oh we had Margaret Cho write our intro though, that was nice of her.

EP: Congratssss =)

JR: What I really liked about the site was that it brings humor to fobbiness when I think my mom was insecure about her own fobbiness, it was great when I shower her the site and she was able to find humor in the fobbiness that made her insecure in our dominantly white community.

SW: Yeah I’m glad your moms enjoy the sites, my mom actually wants me to connect her with other moms, I think they have the comfort of knowing that “hey, I say that to my kids as well” or “I have the same set of values” etc.  Whereas, kids find comfort knowing, hey, I’m not the only person with a misspelled name or its not so weird that I wasn’t allowed to date until college, etc.  And then there’s an audience who just wants to read a bit of humor, even if they can’t really relate and even that’s good because they begin to understand a bit more about our social pressures or traditional values. Example, why we never talk about sex openly lol; why our parents blatantly call us fat all the time etc.  I’d say a lot of the things parents say are… so common among all parents lol.  Every time we read another submission we’re like, HAHA about that again.

TW: Yeah, there are so many things people probably think are stories unique to them, but it happens over and over, for example, moms ordering doggy-style fries instead of animal style fries.

JR: What are some of your favorite submissions?

SW: Online predator,

http://mymomisafob.com/2009/01/11/online-predators-via-youtube/

TW: My favorite entries are pretty much the top rated ones lol

SW: This one where a dad creates a rubric for datable guys,

http://mydadisafob.com/2009/04/03/boys-youre-being-graded/

and I actually know the person who submitted it; shes my neighbor and her mom was my piano teacher lol.

JR: It sounds like you guys started this as a local site for you and your friends but at what point did it get so popular? Did anything happen to enhance its popularity?

SW: haha ok, so we started on tumblr, huge reblogging community, reached over 60,000 hits in one week so had to switch the site over to a self-hosted blog and we also created the dad site all within a week.  I’m glad we made the switch so early otherwise it would’ve been a hassle redirecting people, etc.  Anyway, then exactly a year ago when Teresa was in Cyprus studying abroad our servers were overwhelmed, cause we were reaching all-time hits and we were banned from bluehost 3x so I had to made another switch to linode. Much, more space, more bandwidth.  Hoping it’ll last us lol.  We get most of our publicity from our facebook fan page, I’d say and just word of mouth, oh an the occasional from SFGate, CNNgo, oh in the beginning it was all thanks to angryasianman, disgrasian, and neatorama featuring us.

EP: Just one last question, what do you wish we asked you? And

what do you want people to know about you and

your projects?

SW: So occasionally, we get the angry email about us spurring racial stereotypes, or not respecting our parents, especially as Asians who are supposed to be extremely obedient and polite. In all honesty, we never meant the sites to be negative in any way.  We never meant to just make fun of our parents; it’s more of the idea of sharing the cute things our parents say and people submit because they WANT TO, not because they’re embarrassed. (otherwise they would never submit stuff)  We wanted to create this sharing community and embrace our cultural differences and show that there really isn’t anything to be embarrassed about… oh your mom is a fob? Well so is mine.  She can’t spell either.  But hey, we are a unique generation; there’s only going to be one 2nd generation with 1st generation parents.  It’s a but challenging at times because they’re trying to understand us and we’re trying to accept their traditional values and ideas.  But we’re all overcoming communication barriers, generation gaps, and cultural differences together and that’s worthy of documenting.

To get some more fobby goodness, go to mymomisafob.com & mydadisafob.com Keep your eyes open for their upcoming book, which will be published by Penguin Perigree books this fall.

Interview conducted by Ellice Park and Jenny Robinson 2010

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