Hua Hsu: Stay True

Reading Hua Hsu’s memoir gives me nostalgia. Hsu is 45, my age; therefore, we listened to the same hip-hop songs from the early 90s. We were raised by Asian-immigrant parents. We had similar experiences growing up. Hsu had Ken and I had Đức.

When I first met Đức in high school, he embarrassed me. His jokes, his accents, and his hustlings somewhat irritated me. He bought stolen TI calculators from the Black kids for $10 or $20 a pop and resold it for $50. He sold me one for $30 so I was part of the problem. He was known for copying pre-calculus homeworks from our Vietnamese group. I often wondered how he would survive college if we were around to let him copy our homeworks. I would never find out.

Despite all of his flaws, Đức was a charming guy. Outside of the school, he was street smart. Our friendship grew. I welcomed him into our crew, which included my two Vietnamese friends I had known since middle school. To keep the story short, Đức drowned in a boating accident. He, his girlfriend, and I were in the same canoe. I can’t remember if there was a fourth person on it. The canoe flipped over when we stood up and clowning around. I was not a good swimmer; therefore, I grabbed a hold of the canoe. With the help of other friends from another canoe, we flipped the canoe over. His girlfriend and I got back on, but Đức was nowhere to be found. We thought he was pulling a prank at first. Two, three, four, five minutes later, we started to worry.

Like Hsu, I felt guilty about Đức’s death. It was also the first loss of someone so close to me. The incident haunted me many years later. Ken, Hsu’s friend, was tortured and brutally murdered. It is such a heartbreaking story.

Hsu won a Pulitzer Prize for this memoir. It’s a concise, heartfelt, page-turning read.