Stay True by Hua Hsu

I waited a long time to read this book because it wasn’t released in the UK quickly. I wanted to read it because it appeared on at least nine of the eighteen Best of 2022 lists that I collated – far outstripping many others apart from Demon Copperhead.

Hsu opens his memoir witha very raw description of himself and his search for who he was. Although it was the 80s it reads like a very innocent time or that Hsu was an innocent – not yet interested in girls, looking out for and listening to music and cutting out a red felt star and sticking it to his clothes, telling everyone he was a marxist when they asked what it was.

We see Hsu meet Ken, an inauspicious start to a friendship but it became one; a friendship of smoking on balconies in order to talk, of going on drives just for the fun of being in the car, taking classes together, watching films and thinking you could make one too. The world was theirs.

But then after a party, Ken was carjacked and murdered and Hsu sank into a long grief if not depression. Racked with guile he went over and over – what if he hadn’t left the party early where he had a chat with Ken – searching for things he could have done differently and believing that it was all his fault.

The memoir is also an exploration of immigration where his parents were the first generation and as the saying goes, survive, with the second generation telling the stories. There is a very touching description of Hsu communicating with his father via fax to help him with his maths homework. His father had returned to Taiwan to work. You can see the broken English with lots of questions from his father demonstrating a shared interest with his son.

When asked by a therapist if his parents has told him they loved him, Hsu struggles to answer. They may not have said anything but it is obvious from the faxes that they do. Hsu doesn’t say much about his mother, this is a memoir about men and their friendship which makes it all the rarer.

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