Anyone who has ever listened to an Awkwafina song or watched her music videos knows to expect the unexpected.
Case in point: the 26-year-old “NYC Bitche$” rapper (born Nora Lum) begins her New York City guidebook on Staten Island--not Times Square or the Empire State Building--but the borough she calls the “glorious butt-end of many bad and overused native New Yorker jokes.”
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Awkwafina’s NYC is a travel book written for millennial city-dwellers and transplants who have only ever seen New York City in a television show. At times, it reads more like a scrapbook mailed to you by your best friend, with occasional rants in all caps and doodles of sea monsters over a photo of the East River, than a travel book. And in case you think this book might not be for you because of your love for subway performers and Central Park, fear not: there’s a Central Park photo challenge included at the end of the book.
If the idea is to take readers through neighborhoods they’ve been missing out on, Awkwafina succeeds (in case you were wondering, she has nothing but praise for Staten Island). With fold-out maps, plenty of Instagram-worthy photos of food, mad libs, and lists (from places to people watch to places in the city with public restrooms because anyone who’s ever spent an hour in Manhattan knows that struggle is real), the Queens native writes a practical guide you’re unlikely to find in Fodor’s with the trademark humor she’s become known for. Interested in urban canning? Want to learn how to eat a soup dumpling? Awkwafina covers it all.
But it isn’t all jokes and laughs in Awkwafina’s NYC; she gives you historical facts about neighborhoods and lesser-explored landmarks, such as background on the Hispanic Society of America located in upper Manhattan and why there’s a disco ball in the middle of a Rite Aid in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn.
One thing is clear: this is not Taylor Swift’s New York, but that isn’t a bad thing. Although Awkwafina’s NYC isn’t intended for the first-time visitor, it doesn’t shoot down any of the mystery and magic of the city. In fact, it’s the hidden gems she delves into that makes New York more endearing than any version of it you may hear about in a song.