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Book Review :: Stay True by Hua Hsu

Stay True a memoir by Hua Hsu published by Penguin Random House book cover image

Guest Post by Kevin Brown

In his memoir Stay True, Hua Hsu explores identity through three different lenses: race/ethnicity, friendship, and music. Music is by far the dominant way Hsu defined himself when he was in college, the years he focuses on in this work. He uses his love of music partly to define himself as different than others—as a way to carve out an identity for himself—and to judge others—as a way to keep others at a distance. He becomes friends with Ken, a student unlike Hsu in almost every way, including musical tastes. Despite those differences, Ken becomes a friend who helps Hsu grow and change, slowly moving past his easy judgments about others. Ken and Hsu are both Asian Americans, but Ken is Japanese American. His family has been in the United States for generations, while Hsu is the son of Taiwanese immigrants, leading Hsu to feel less settled in his racial/ethnic identity. All of these strands help Hsu talk about who he was then and how that time has shaped him into who is, but the main concern of the memoir is a specific event in his relationship with Ken, one Hsu is still coming to terms with years afterward.


Stay True by Hua Hsu. Penguin Random House, September 2022.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite or kevinbrownwrites.weebly.com/.

Book Review :: In Love by Amy Bloom

In Love: A Memory of Love and Loss memoir by Amy Bloom book cover image

Guest Post by Kevin Brown

Amy Bloom’s memoir relates her husband’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis and their struggle to find a way for him to die as he chooses rather than suffer through years of mental decline. Bloom weaves chapters from the past — as she realizes what’s happening to her husband and the revelation of his diagnosis — with those of Brian’s final days in Switzerland, as well as chapters on the challenges those who want to end their life face. Bloom writes movingly about her love for Brian, consistently reminding the reader through scenes she describes, in addition to her reflections, that her helping him die comes out of that love. As soon as he is diagnosed, Brian asks Bloom to help him, as she has always been the planner in their relationship, and he has begun to lose the ability to do that type of work. This book is a testament to their marriage and their love as much as it is an exploration of why someone would want to end their life and why the person who loves them most would want to help. It is, as the subtitle states, a memoir of love and loss, and the reader feels both equally.


In Love: A Memory of Love and Loss by Amy Bloom. Random House, 2022.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite or kevinbrownwrites.weebly.com/.