Lac Su's, "I Love You's Are For White People": A Review
"I love you's are for white people" by Lac Su begins right in the middle of the action. Young Lac is surprised by his father and begins a dangerous treck with his family out of Communist Vietnam. With great fear and confusion Lac and his family flee Vietnam; gunshots following them and safely make it (along with a few ripe garden tomatoes) to a boat that gets them to LA. This story is a real raw description of life for a refugee. Su goes on to talk about how once his family arrived in America they were homeless, camping in tent communities that were made up mainly of Vietnamese bums. With not much they slowly made their way into a subsidized living, one that was gentrified and divided by race.
This specifically pertains to me because I myself lived in a tent city and nothing is more heartbreaking than watching a family be so low. It always made me wonder what their story was. What is it that landed them in these trenches? With great innocence, patience and understanding Lac and his family move into a studio in Hollywood. Where Lac goes on to learn English and have the opportunity to attend public school.
I found the story about the balloon that was actually a condom was very graphic and saddening. Here is a young boy who has no toys or friends to entertain himself and he has to come with the ignorance and innocence when he finds a used condom thinking it's a balloon and plays with it for months. What horrifying imagery. A five year old baby having to find escape in literal waste. This story was wrapped by Lacs father getting him a new clean condom to play with, this to me seemed to be a kind and humorous act wrapped up in lac's own innocence.
Lac Su moves into his adolescence as a hoodlum. Young Lac finds himself in with his local communities Vietnamese gang. Upon developing a habit for drinking Su decides after experiencing great humiliation at home; as his father degrades Lacs mother and threatens his life, that he wants to be apart of a street lifestyle. He jumps off his transition by going into the Spanish neighborhood and drunkenly tags over all gang affiliated tags. It is on this same night that Lac is ambushed and jumped. Lac goes on to wreak havoc with the street rats up until the leader, Dragon Head gets caught up and sent to juvie. His participation in the gangs shenanigans dissipate even more after his first and last robbery. Lac and his friends break into a home and Lac receives a little over $500 for assisting, although he does not make a habit of this crime. He does however develop a minor dependency on alcohol. He also has the street rats help him to jump a student who picks on young Lac at school. Lac spends most of his time during this section evolving into a man that I assume is similar to his father. In this portion you see lac start smoking cigarettes mimicking the way his father holds them in his mouth. You also see him develop a habit of lies, young Lac seeks refuge in the street rats gang and uses this as an escape.
The end of the reading wraps up when Su’s father and mother help to move two of Lac's uncles into America. The uncles; who traditionally go by Five and Nine adopt American culture as Su's father demands but they are presented with a loophole when Lacs father explains to them that they cannot eat dogs in America even if they are property. He goes on to try and compromise with the uncles by telling them to collect chickens and ducks like the Mexicans. Instead of going out and buying poultry the two uncles instead chase and capture two geese from the public park. Luckily they do so without Lac's father finding out.
Su’s vivid description in his memoir are both satisfying and intriguing. With incredible and distinct prose does Su pull us into his coming of age and provide a personal and heartwarming story. I hold high respect for this work and recommend for any and everyone to complete it from beginning to end.
© 2017 Christa Canady