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I Loves Yous Are for White People: A Memoir by Lac Su [in San Francisco Chronicle]

I Love Yous Are for White PeopleLac Su is a survivor of things so harrowing that just recounting some of those experiences, even from the distance of a keyboard tapping out a review of his memoir, I Love Yous Are for White People, makes the heart wince.

As a 5-year-old immigrant to the United States – which his family calls “heaven” before their arrival to a filthy studio in a decaying Hollywood apartment building – Su has already survived his best friend’s death, whizzing bullets, inhumane conditions on a nightmarish boat escape from Vietnam, and temporary displacement in Hong Kong.

One of his first American memories is playing with a found balloon “for days on end in absolute bliss.” Having retrieved it from the building’s rancid carpet, he finds it impossible to inflate: “I can tell someone else has been blowing on my balloon because the inside is moist and tastes salty … but I bite, suck, and chew on it enough to remove the grime and restore its bright red luster.” When his father sees him with the cherished toy, he flies into a rage – but a 5-year-old has no comprehension that he’s been playing with a used condom.

“They can’t tell me it’s not a balloon,” Su insists. “Pa just doesn’t want me having fun in Heaven.” Caught with another “balloon,” Su experiences the brutality of his father’s anger: “It’s the first time Pa has taught me a lesson with his heavy hands. … It hurts worse than I ever imagined it would.”

Violence marks Su’s relationship with his father throughout this haunting memoir. “My world revolves around a tiny man,” Su repeats about his father, who stands less than 5 feet but thinks nothing of beating his wife and children into complete submission. Sick and often unemployed, Su’s father is determined that education will save his children from a life of welfare and food stamps. “You’re experiencing the one thing I’ve wanted my entire life – a free education,” he tells Su on the first day of school … [click here for more]

Review: San Francisco Chronicle, June 2, 2009

Readers: Adult

Published: 2009

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