Serena and Teresa Wu, both ages 20, are the brains behind My Mom is a Fob.com, a popular blog that invites Asian Americans from all over the globe to submit emails, stories and pictures of their parents in typical “Fresh-off-the-boat” form. Fans have overrun the inboxes of Serena and Teresa, eager to tell their FOB mom story, and the site has already passed the 1.2 million mark in hits since Serena and Teresa launched mymomisafob.com on Oct. 18.
Though the two communicate daily, correspondence between Serena at UC Berkeley, Teresa from UC San Diego had all been strictly online. Their meeting December 18, for the TaiwaneseAmerican.org interview, was their first time meeting since graduating from high school in 2006. Despite the distance, however, the pair speak to each other nearly every day – and still finish each other’s sentences as if they were never apart.
In creating their hit site, the two effectively created an internet-wide inside joke. With gems like “is funk mean sexy?” and requests like “make me grandson and white you teeth,” the site has Asian American readers laughing at stories that hit close to home.
Serena: (We’ve created) a sharing community. People have a good time. They think ‘dude, my parents do that too,’ and suddenly there’s this natural bond, and they think ‘my family’s not the only one.’
Teresa: You always knew that there were other Asian Americans experiencing these FOB parents, but you get emails every day that sound exactly like your mom. It’s cool to share.
Serena: I guess the issue is when some people of other races are reading it and whether they interpret it differently.
The issue of cultural insensitivity is a perpetual topic of angry readers, and members of the blogosphere have debated the topic since MMIAF’s inception.
Serena: A girl wrote a long blog post about how we were airing out our parent’s dirty laundry. But I think people send submissions to us because they want to share, not because they’re embarrassed. It’s stuff we are willingly showing others.
Connie: So at what point are we laughing at racial stereotypes?
Serena: I guess you could put it as “just another window for other ethnicities to look at how Asian families are.” A lot of people don’t understand why Asian parents are so straightforward and blunt and ask things like “oh did you gain weight” but if (other ethnicities) keep up with the blog, they’ll realize that this is how Asian families interact with each other.
Teresa: I think you can say that about everything that goes online, everything you can criticize from some angle, and everything can be looked at in a negative way, but I think more good and more positive has come out of it. The bottom line is that we’re not trying to be malicious in any way.
Connie: So what were the intentions of you two when starting the site? How does your blog compare to other Web sites that address race, like Stuff White People Like?
Teresa: It’s very similar in that you have to take it tongue and cheek.
Serena: Our inspiration actually came from Postcards from Your Momma which is just emails from your mom. It’s the same concept, user generated blog sites. I think people like to read Stuff White People Like because it’s controversial, and I think the Asian population is (also a large) enough population that we can have this community and not offend people.
Connie: So with the popularity of your blogs and MMIAF, have you ever met someone who recognizes you? Has celebrity status hit?
Teresa: We’re pretty much in the background when it comes to My Mom is a Fob. We don’t post our names anymore.
Serena: No one thought my mom was funny.
Connie: So what do your moms think of the site, then?
Teresa: I hadn’t showed my mom for a long time.
Serena: My mom…really likes the blogs, she finds them really funny. She wants to meet the other moms, there’s one post where she actually commented “I would like to meet this cute mom.”
Teresa: I showed the blog to my mom and she thought it was funny. Then I told her about the advertising, and she said “What? Why don’t you give me any of the money? This is my content!”
Connie: So how do you think that the popularity of the site reflects the power of Asian Americans on the Internet?
Teresa: I think we have a lot of potential. We have so many Asian American readers that when we combine forces with people like Wong Fu Productions and TaiwaneseAmerican.org we can do a lot of cool things.
Serena: There are a lot of Asian artists, people performing on YouTube and stuff aren’t really that known but are really talented. Our eventual goal is to give voices to those who don’t necessarily have them.
Serena: I think we Asian Americans are so underrepresented in–
Teresa: Creative fields.
Serena: Especially the media, if you open some teen magazine or any magazine you don’t see a lot of Asian American faces. But we exist. A lot of it is people gaining publicity through personal projects online. This is how people establish their networks, and as it grows people can gain a better hold of the media industry or journalism.
Teresa: It’s helping build a network of people connecting people who otherwise wouldn’t have found each other.
Serena: And even though there are a lot of Asians in California, particularly in the Bay Area, there are some in places like the Midwest, and for them to connect with us it would have to be through social media.
While Serena and Teresa have additional projects, including other blogs and layout and writing gigs, the pair has big plans for the future of MMIAF, including a book deal proposal in the works.
Teresa: We’re going to be writing the proposal over winter break and we’ll see if it happens. It’s not a good economic climate to be pitching books right now, but at the same time we want to do it while the blog is fresh and timely.
Serena: It’s not going to be straight up submissions – we want it to be a guide to understanding FOB moms.
Serena: We want to expand MMIAF. HoChie suggested a more serious blog, sort of a chicken soup for the Asian American soul, of immigrant stories. But it’s harder to get submissions because people aren’t as willing to spend the time to write out a long story.
Teresa: Not everyone is a writer, some people (just) have good stories.
Serena: We also created a link, “Wuink”. For like Wink Incorporated… Wu, Inc.
Teresa: But we don’t know what we’re doing yet.
Serena: I’ve had this “stay tuned” sign up for the longest time.
mymomisafob.com – the site that started it all!
mydadisafob.com – because our dads matter too!
byteresawu.com – Teresa’s blog.
serenaw.us – Serena’s blog.
wuink.com – Together, they are Wu, Inc.
Connie is a student at UC Berkeley who adores FOB parents too. She maintains her own space in the blogosphere world at www.conniechung.net.
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