33 pages 1 hour read

Lac Su

I Love Yous are For White People

Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | Adult | Published in 2009

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Important Quotes

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“American religious organizations had set up shop in Hong Kong to find converts in exchange for sponsoring their emigration to America. Pa didn’t believe in Heaven, but he longed to provide his family the same opportunities described by the American soldiers during the war. Being an atheist didn’t stop him from joining all four religions to better our chances of getting sponsored. Each week he shuffled us among Buddhist, Catholic, Protestant, and Baptist services, and he and Ma constantly took visits from evangelists who would stop by our hotel to preach to us.” 

(Chapter 2, Page 20)

Pa’s willingness to attend different religious services attests to how far he will go to secure his family’s safety. Ma accepting visits from proselytizers, surely at her husband’s request, furthers this goal. The behavior is consistent with Pa’s history as a self-made man and provider. Pa overcame odds as a child through hard work, becoming a successful business owner by his early twenties. Feigning devotion despite being an atheist demonstrates his readiness to do whatever it takes to survive, just as he did when he was young.

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“I miss Da Nang and long for the days when I could roam the streets freely with my best friend, Vu. In Vietnam, I didn’t even have to ask to leave the house. Ma and Pa knew where to find me.” 

(Chapter 2, Page 27)

The trauma of displacement manifests itself in myriad ways. In addition to experiencing violence and deprivation during the journey to the US, and to sharing living quarters with prostitutes, gang members, and drug dealers in Los Angeles, Su is a homesick boy. He misses the normality of his old life, when he was afforded freedom to play with his neighbor, Vu. Pa and Ma fear their crime-ridden neighborhood and thus forbid Su from playing outside with local children.

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“Ma stares out the window in silence. I don’t disturb her because I know that she, too, is in a happier place.” 

(Chapter 2, Page 29)

Su’s memoir contains far less information about Ma than it does about