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I Love Yous Are for White People

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Overview

As a young child, Lac Su made a harrowing escape from the Communists in Vietnam. With a price on his father's head, Lac, with his family, was forced to immigrate in 1979 to seedy West Los Angeles where squalid living conditions and a cultural fabric that refused to thread them in effectively squashed their American Dream. Lac's search for love and acceptance amid poverty—not to mention the psychological turmoil created by a harsh and unrelenting father—turned his young life into a comedy of errors and led him to ...

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Overview

As a young child, Lac Su made a harrowing escape from the Communists in Vietnam. With a price on his father's head, Lac, with his family, was forced to immigrate in 1979 to seedy West Los Angeles where squalid living conditions and a cultural fabric that refused to thread them in effectively squashed their American Dream. Lac's search for love and acceptance amid poverty—not to mention the psychological turmoil created by a harsh and unrelenting father—turned his young life into a comedy of errors and led him to a dangerous gang experience that threatened to tear his life apart.

Heart-wrenching, irreverent, and ultimately uplifting, I Love Yous Are for White People is memoir at its most affecting, depicting the struggles that countless individuals have faced in their quest to belong and that even more have endured in pursuit of a father's fleeting affection.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Adult/High School—From the frightening exodus his family made from Vietnam in 1984 and through their resettlement and generation-specific acculturation in Southern California, Su offers excellent storytelling with keen psychological insight. While his mother cared for everyone as the family continued to grow, his father strove hard on both their behalf and in frustration at his son's apparent thickheadedness. The careful, almost timid five-year-old grew into a gang-affiliated and alienated teen. Nevertheless, and amid economic and emotional poverty, Su has become successful as a scholar, father, and writer. This memoir is an excellent companion to Le Thi Diem Thuy's novel in short stories, The Gangster We Are All Looking For (Knopf, 2003).—Francisca Goldsmith, Halifax Public Libraries, Nova Scotia
Kirkus Reviews
In his debut, marketing consultant Su recalls growing up Vietnamese in the ghettos of America, and the cultural divide between two generations. The riveting opening sets the stage as the family raced to a rickety boat to escape their homeland, dodging communist gunfire as they ran. The son of war refugees, the author came of age in the poor enclaves of Los Angeles with an emotional burden familiar to children of immigrants. Though he longed to succeed in America so that his parents' sacrifices were "not for nothing," he rebelled against his stifling upbringing. During the course of a dangerous adolescent descent, Su sought companionship with a Vietnamese street gang, neglected school and, for a time, disappointed his overbearing yet sympathetic father, an iron-willed man who jostled his way to wealth in Vietnam before the communists took over. Su's father emerges as the central force in his life. Together, they rummaged through dumpsters for shoes and other useable castaways. His first day at an American school was a special occasion, so his father forced him to wear a suit. When he was caught after stealing $500 from his mother's piggy bank, his father beat him and forced him to strip naked before locking him outside in order to shame him. He later revealed to his son the purpose of the bank: a college fund for Su and his siblings. Filled with emotive vignettes, the prose is sometimes forced, and the book doesn't demonstrate the bold vision of Andrew X. Pham's Catfish and Mandala (1999) or the grace of Andrew Lam's Perfume Dreams (2005). But Su offers a compelling narrative of immigrant life, cultural dissonance and the tug of familial obligation. Uneven but memorable. Author appearancesin Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061543661
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/12/2009
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 273,511
  • Product dimensions: 5.32 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

Lac Su received a master's degree and Ph.D., A.B.D., in industrial-organizational psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology. He is vice president of marketing for TalentSmart, a global think tank and management consulting firm, and he lives in San Diego with his wife and three kids.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 25 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(15)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(0)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 12, 2009

    Wow. This book makes you think. Inspirational!

    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.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 19, 2009

    So absorbing, I read it in one sitting

    This book shares a voice that I haven't heard of before. It's a story about overcoming obstacles, having hope, and striving to get a piece of the America pie despite much hardships. An eye opening memoir about the Vietnamese Boat immigrants. Not melodramatic at all. Dramatic, absorbing, enlightening, very provocative, touching, and thrilling.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2009

    Absorbing and Intense

    Interesting insight into the life of a Vietnamese refugee and his transition to American life. Probably not what you are expecting.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2010

    This could have been the good book it was not.

    Although the author captures your attention at the outset, it quickly twindles with the self serving whining of the author. I expected much more from a young man who bravely came through a horrifying experience into an limitless opportrunity to make the most of a bad situation. Maybe he should have joined forces with the author of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid". Given limitless opportunities to take action, he sits in his alley of self pity playing the 'woe is me' card. A little more hard core detailed truth would have made the book much more interesting.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2010

    Gripping, well-written memoir gets under your skin

    Exceptionally well-written memoir. True story of a boy's journey into manhood, from his exodus from Vietnam ('boat people') to his assimilation in East L.A.. I could not put the book down for the first few chapters...gripping, compelling, humorous, insightful, shocking. Then I had to put the book aside briefly, some parts were disturbing & difficult to absorb. But don't let that deter you, a story that you'll feel better for reading, and an author I will definitely read again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2014

    EXCELLANT READ.

    Interesting to have a different cultural view of growing up in America.

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  • Posted July 9, 2013

    Lac Su¿s memoir is a Vietnamese immigrant story. Parts of it are

    Lac Su’s memoir is a Vietnamese immigrant story. Parts of it are very sad and even disturbing, like when he discusses his abusive father, but it also has its light humorous moments. An enjoyable enough read.

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  • Posted July 2, 2013

     ¿I Love Yous Are For White People¿ gives a vivid picture of the

     “I Love Yous Are For White People” gives a vivid picture of the Asian-American culture in San Gabriel. A heart breaking family tale, but Lac Su rose above the neighborhood he was raised in to make a success of himself.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2012

    Left me wanting more....

    Saw Lac weighing in on purported abuse by Asian parents who made 4 year old run in the snow in his underpants. So manny dynamics at work in the life of immigrant children. Spoiler alert: big hole from Street Ratz to unconditional love. What fell into place that saw Lac from finding solice in a bottle to having the funds and wherewithal to get a degree? I can only hope the answer is that a sequel is coming.

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    Posted August 14, 2009

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