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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Themes

Child Abuse and Domestic Violence

Physical and emotional violence mark Su’s childhood, much of it occurring inside the home. His main abuser is Pa, who speaks harshly to him from the outset of the book, setting the tone of their relationship through adolescence. The verbal abuse turns physical shortly after the family’s arrival in the US, when Pa catches his son playing with a used condom.

The abuse increases in frequency and intensity over time. Pa smacks Su across the back of the head while they are dumpster diving; he whips him with bamboo shoots and other weapons during their evening study sessions; and he puts a meat cleaver to his throat when Su comes to his mother’s defense after a particularly ugly fight. Su is also molested by his cousin Crazy over a period of eight years.

Ma is both on the giving and receiving end of the violence. She calls Su names and hits him when he fights with his sister, while Pa belittles and strikes her when she fails to meet his expectations. As for the children, they mirror their parents’ behavior: Although Su and Quy are often at odds, it is Bo who bears the brunt of her brother’s frustrations.

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