Book Review: Stay True
Hua Hsu's masterful snapshot of friendship
The friendships that we make in college can often be the ones that have the most impact on us and last a lifetime — for Hua Hsu, this was certainly set to be the case with his close friend Ken, who he met attending Berkley in the 1990s.
Growing up, Hsu never felt that he fit in anywhere — as the son of Taiwanese immigrant parents, he always felt that American culture didn't have a place for him. He instead turned to resisting the mainstream, rejecting popular music and trends and instead focusing on creating alternative magazines and observing a straight-edge lifestyle.
When he meets Ken, Hsu immediately finds fault in him being like everyone else. Seemingly easygoing and put-together, Ken is the exact opposite of what Hsu feels he is himself. With a style Hsu deemed "ruggedly generic," — backward baseball caps and polo shirts — it seemed the two had nothing in common aside from both being Asian American.
Despite these stark differences, their relationship takes steps from tentative neighbors to roommates to the kind of close friendship that can only be forged through the mundanities of college life with all its ups and downs. Over late-night conversations and long drives up the California coast, Hsu and Ken find themselves becoming essential parts of each other's lives and with the type of bond that will last a lifetime.
But then Ken is killed. In the course of one evening during a senseless carjacking, less than three years from when they first met, Hsu loses one of the closest friends of his life, and is left to deal with the aftermath.
What follows is his journey to both remember Ken but also process his own grief, searching for his own way without one of the most important people in his life that had shaped him in ways he would never have imagined possible.
Hsu masterfully pinpoints his feelings in time, allowing the reader to step into his mindset in that moment. Whether it is in the dorms, hanging out with Ken, or in the aftermath of Ken's death and funeral, each moment feels captured in such a way that shows Hsu's talent in both his writing and his memorialization.
Doubleday // 208 pages // Memoir