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Book Review :: Stay True by Hua Hsu

Stay True by Hua Hsu book cover image

Guest Post by Taylor Murphy

Stay True by Hua Hsu is a poignant memoir about growing up, friendship, loss, identity, and the Asian-American experience. Hsu, a New Yorker staff writer, reflects on his time as an undergrad at Berkeley and his unlikely friend Ken.

An Abercrombie-wearing frat boy, Ken’s Japanese American upbringing emboldens him while Hsu is quieted by his immigrant Tawainese childhood. For example, Ken refuses to remove his shoes upon entering the house and directly calls out a casting director by asking why there weren’t more Asian-Americans on MTV. Meanwhile, Hsu rejects anything mainstream; he opts to stay in on Friday nights instead of partying and listens to intentionally curated music. Ken lives loudly and “wanted to see himself in the world” whereas Hsu contemplates how “Ken noticed that I never really went out. More important, he noticed that I hoped to be noticed for this.” Ultimately, Ken’s foil forces Hsu to examine his identity while learning how to loosen up and experience life more fully.

When Ken is senselessly murdered, Hsu turns to writing as a means to cope with the loss of a valued friend. His mother believes Hsu and his friends “had to find a way to get on with our lives.”

Stay True is the result of years of reflection about the ways an ordinary friendship shapes our life long after the friend is gone.

Stay True by Hua Hsu. Doubleday, September 2022

Reviewer bio: Taylor Murphy is a sales manager by day and an English graduate student by night. When she’s not juggling work and school, you can find her snuggled up with her adorable pug and a good book, spending time by the sea, or catching a Boston Celtics game. Her twitter handle is @tayfran and is an amalgamation of the aforementioned things she loves most.

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