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Nick Tasler RSS Feed (Minneapolis, MN)

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I Love Yous Are for White People: A Memoir
I Love Yous Are for White People: A Memoir
by Lac Su
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.05
89 used & new from $3.97

132 of 140 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Raw, Honest & Original Page-Turner, May 14, 2009
What impressed me most about this book is how even as a middle-class, white, small town midwesterner with a cynical bent, I so deeply related to the plight of a Vietnamese refugee family plunked down into the ghetto of inner-city L.A.

Beginning with his family's harrowing escape from Communist Vietnam amidst a backdrop of gunfire and grenade explosion into an ill-equipped fishing boat that nearly sinks under heavy Pacific storms, the story truly begins with a bang. After being rescued at the very last moment by a reluctant Hong Kong military crew, Su and his family eventually make their way to the "Promiseland" in the ghettos of L.A.

With just the right amount of description--never revealing too much to put the reader at an all-knowing distance, nor too little to prevent you from truly feeling what Su felt in each moment--the writing made me feel as though I was the author's shadow. I saw what he saw and experienced what he experienced--from his adolescent stealing and subsequent selling of his parent's food stamps in order to feed a bullying peer's video game habit in the desperate hope of being accepted, all the way to the cold feeling of a gun barrel jammed into my cheek.

Perhaps the most interesting character is Su's father. He is a dejected shell of a man struggling with the loss of his position as a respect-commanding figure in Vietnam to a veritable Nobody in the U.S. Not knowing the language or the customs and without any formal education (he himself was orphaned and left to fend for himself as a hustler on the streets of Da Nang as an adolescent), he desperately clings to his dignity as we slowly and tragically watch it slip away. He is at once reprehensible for his violet outbursts towards his family (specifically towards the author who bears the biggest brunt as he is the "big head," or eldest son), but I found myself compelled to feel sympathy for "Pa." He's not an alcoholic. He's not lazy or sexually deviant. He is simply a man that the circumstances of life have beaten. Ultimately, you get the impression that he wants nothing more than for his children to avoid the same fate. However misguided Pa's actions may have been, Su adeptly paints the portrait of his father as a tragic figure whose love for his family--although extremely warped in it's outward expression of violence and anger--is every bit as real as the love of any father.

I also found it refreshing to read such a vivid portrayal of teen gang life that is neither bogged down by preaching on the one hand, nor does it glorify gang-banging on the other hand. You simply get a glimpse of what it's like from the inside, and are left completely free to draw any conclusions you wish. No heroes and no villains. Just people, flawed and perfectly human.

Since the depictions of his ganglife fit in so seamlessly with the rest of the story, I doubt that Su's ommision of social commentary was intentional or even conscious. From start to finish Su's clear mission is simiply to tell the reader his story--nothing more and nothing less. I'm very glad he did.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 12, 2011 2:09 PM PDT

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