Author's Notes for "Fresh Off the Bod"

You can tell how old this story is by the fact that I referenced Yao Ming instead of Jeremy Lin. :P And the hyphen in "e-mail." I could update all those weird little details, but I prefer to let them stand as part of a historical document.

I wrote the first draft of this in early 2014, specifically as part of my writing sample to apply to the Clarion UCSD summer workshop. I didn't get in, and I spent the next several years alternately tinkering with the story and submitting it to a variety of short fiction markets (final tally: 30 rejections between 2014 and 2019).

The title also changed during that long process: It started as "Baller" (which I changed after the HBO series "Ballers" came out), then became "Nothing But Net" (a double entendre referencing basketball nets & network television), and finally ended up as "Fresh Off the Bod" (a nod to the ABC sitcom based on Eddie Huang's memoir).

In many ways, this is the most personal story I've ever written: it mines a lot of my real-life experience growing up as an Asian American immigrant in Southern California, and plays with my longtime obsession with television production. None of the fantasy magic stuff is true, obviously, and the particular familial rifts are completely made up, but they are based in fact.

The most "real" thing that I wanted to portray in the relationships here was the unavoidable disconnect between immigrant parents and their children. I was born in Taiwan and have some memories of my first years of life there, but I knew plenty of "ABCs" (American Born Chinese) growing up: kids whose only connection to their cultural heritage was through distant family members or secondhand stories. And it took me a long time to realize that for my parents, there was always a tension between wanting my sister and me to find a better life in the US--which necessarily meant assimilating into mainstream white culture--and wanting us to still care about our roots back in Taiwan and China, even as they refused to talk to us about certain difficult parts of our family history.

Diaspora is different for everyone, but at the heart of it is making peace with the discontinuities in your life and deciding what you want to hold on to as you move forward.

Curtis C. Chen
May, 2022
Vancouver, WA, USA