Having read several autobiographies and memoirs of journeys undertaken by immigrants to come and settle in United States of America, and eventually making their American dream happen, I was not really gung ho about reading yet another immigrant memoir. In fact, I had Lac Su sitting on my to-read list for quite a while. It was only because I had nothing better to read today, did I pick up “I LoveYous Are for White People"; needless to say, my expectations were at the very minimal. I simply wanted a read that would lull me into daytime slumber despite the unrelenting war waged on me by viral rhinitis. Lac Su’s novel did anything but lull me to sleep; however, it did sideline the viral war, as I forgot my pains and aches, even my sniffling was significantly less during the two and a half hours I was reading the novel.
Lac Su provides a very graphic, yet teasing account of how he and his family escaped Communist Vietnam in 1979. The only other such novel that evoked a similar response was Laila Lalami’s “Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits”. Lac Su’s novel’s opening is a jump start that breathes interest and excitement in the reader which Su is able to sustain for the major part of the memoir which is divided into fourteen chapters. Each chapter is given an intriguing title which forces the reader to go that next chapter before putting the book down; that is how I read it in one sitting. Given that the title of the memoir is so catchy, the anecdotal chapters had to follow suit; so in the memoir, there are chapter titles like ‘heavy Javi’, “A is for boy and B is for cat”, “the naked truth” etc. Having said that, I must add that some chapters are not as succulent as the others, especially the ones dealing with the gang wars in Hollywood. The overall impression though is of a gripping memoir that is heartfelt and true, and must have been cathartic for the writer as he admits to in one of his interviews.
A parting note: As soon as I finished that last chapter, I looked at the date of publication of this novel because the content and some of the underlying themes have an Amy Chua taste to them. Amy Chua the “TigerMom” had the western world in disbelief as she unraveled unique parenting styles adopted by many Chinese families in her January 2011 article titled Why Chinese Mothers are Superior. Apparently Ms.Chua wasn’t as much of a maverick in parenting as we imagined her to be; Lac Su had a head start on her since his memoir "I Love Yous are For White People" published in 2009, gives the reader an insightful account of Asian parenting, Vietnamese style.