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I Love Yous Are for White People

3.46  ·  Rating Details ·  6,668 Ratings  ·  236 Reviews
As a young child, Lac Su made a harrowing escape from the Communists in Vietnam. With a price on his father's head, Lac, with his family, was forced to immigrate in 1979 to seedy West Los Angeles where squalid living conditions and a cultural fabric that refused to thread them in effectively squashed their American Dream. Lac's search for love and acceptance amid poverty—n ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published May 12th 2009 by Harper Perennial (first published May 1st 2009)
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Oct 27, 2015 Oriana rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2011
I've talked about the memoir continuum before. If I had graphics skills I'd draw a picture, but basically there's two poles: one called "has a life interesting enough to warrant writing a memoir" and the other called "is capable of writing well enough to describe that life in a way that doesn't make you want to stab yourself in the eye." Somewhere else I gave examples for the four resulting categories (unique life + good writing; unique life + bad writing; boring life + good writing; boring life ...more
Oct 22, 2011 Josephine rated it it was ok
Being Asian, I took one look at the title — “I Love Yous Are For White People” — and took it for granted that it’d be written by a fellow Asian.

I don’t really ever remember either of my parents telling me that they loved me — and when I mentioned this to a white friend, she just looked at me with incredible pity…but, it never really bothered me because, unlike the author of this book, I always fully realized that just because someone doesn’t tell you that they love you, often actions speak loude
Sep 26, 2009 Davina rated it it was amazing
The scars still stirs at the tip of his tongue...I naturally get sucked in instantly with immigrant stories/books. But for Lac, his perspective as a child who witnessed the harshest and roughest life circumstances at an early age differed from a typical memoir. We connected. He speaks to his readers. So yes, life as an immigrant child..... Often, our parent's struggles are set in stone, Lac has done so in his book and vividly portrayed the life of his mother and father. However, Lac also bravely ...more
May 16, 2010 Becky rated it did not like it
I made the (unfortunate) decision to recommend this book to my book club. I'd read some reviews and thought it sounded right up my alley - it is the memoir of a Vietnamese refugee growing up in California. I feel like a horrible person for saying this because it was a very sad story, but it was just so horribly written that I could barely get through it. For a very emotional story, there seemed to be no emotion in the writing. The author went through a lot of emotional turmoil and changes (comin ...more
Sep 20, 2012 Louise rated it liked it
Recommended to Louise by: Abenet
I normally wouldn't have read this book, but it was recommended to me by a co-worker who said it was hilarious. Since it's about the neighborhood I grew up in and currently live in, I gave it a shot. I really liked it!

It's a coming-of-age story of a Vietnamese immigrant and the trials he goes through trying to acclimate himself to American and Asian-American culture in the San Gabriel valley. There are plenty of upsetting and sad parts to the story, but there's also humor and insight.

I especial
Jan 22, 2011 Kim rated it it was amazing
I found this book completely entrancing. I have little knowledge of the Vietnamese culture so I learned alot through Lac Su's writing.
It's hard to imagine the escape the Su family made & what they went through in their journey to this country. As I read, it occurred to me that Pa was largely responsible for the family even getting out alive. He was a strong man, having made his own escape as a young man to Vietnam, then making a life out of nothing. He's a survivor. I really had developed a
Aug 17, 2009 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
I judge this book by its title. A compelling story about immigrant life. A tear jerker and an inspiring story. It's raw so go into it with discretion. Once you read the first chapter, you won't be able to put it down after.
Sep 09, 2009 Dodie rated it it was amazing
Lac Su arrived in the US at a young age with his Vietnamese family, determined to better themselves and thrive - without distancing themselves too much from their cultural heritage. Being poor means living in rough places, and young Lac quickly picks up on who has the power in school, on the streets, and in the family. Violence plays a large part throughout the book - meted out by Lac's father, neighborhood bullies, and Lac himself. Drugs and alcohol provide an outlet for many disenfranchised yo ...more
Hana Candelaria
Jan 10, 2010 Hana Candelaria rated it it was amazing
A fascinating book I never would have noticed had it not been referred by someone who'd commented online about 'Push.' This is the first description of Vietnam-to-US by-boat I've ever read. As eloquently depicted through the eyes of the son [Lac Su, then 5yrs old:], the family of 4 escapes Communist Vietnam under a hail of gunfire, survives the boat ride with 300 people on a 60-footer [their two companion boats perished:], and ends up in East LA where they meet a host of other 'adventures.' This ...more
Mar 22, 2009 nina rated it really liked it
Shelves: asian-authors, memoir
One would hope that after fleeing Vietnam amidst gunfire in a boat with 300 other people and ending up in America, your life would be easier from there on out. Unfortunately that was not the case for Lac Su, whose childhood and teenage years were filled with looking for acceptance and belonging while avoiding his easily-angered father and his culture. The title of the book is reason enough to read this memoir.
Aug 17, 2009 Sara rated it it was amazing
Great read. I highly recommend this book.
Aug 21, 2010 Iahc rated it it was amazing
This book deserves all the praise and awards it has received. The story is about a Vietnamese refugee family who come to America, land up literally in Hollywood, and find (at first) the American Nightmare: violence, gangs, poverty, isolation. Yet the author narrates his own travails with such grace, and at times humor, the story is infinitely readable despite many heartbreaking, and at times infuriating, events. Despite the abuse he suffers from his father, a molester cousin, and gangmembers, La ...more
Jul 19, 2011 Jodie rated it liked it
I think I am getting a bit jaded when it comes to memoirs. This did not grab at my heart strings like it should have and I am sure it is purely because of the writing style, it was quite dry and point of fact. I hate to think that I have become desensitived to all but the most horrific of stories but I believe that it is because the author seemed to be almost a bit removed from the story and so I felt the same.
May 23, 2016 janet rated it really liked it
This book, though seemingly a straightforward coming of age memoir focused on parental abuse, is quite complex. Though Lac doesn't hold anything back, there is a lot of emotional and analytical work he leaves to do with the material he introduces. For my own academic work, Su offers new ways to think about what it meant for him to become an American -it cannot be read as an assimilation narrative, though I would argue this is a terrible model to seek out anyway, and lends support to the ideas I ...more
Aug 03, 2016 Christina rated it liked it
Memoirs are tricky.
I'm reminded of that time in Fiction I when I read a classmate's story and wrote her out a very thoughtful critique about how the subject matter was potentially very moving but here were some tips on making dialogue realistic (nothing fancy, just the usual tricks of "read it aloud to see if it flows," etc.), and maybe try to make the whole thing flow more smoothly and introduce some conflict. It was a story about a twelve year-old girl whose best friend died: that's it, there
Sep 30, 2009 Terry rated it liked it
This book is well written, although (or because)it was sometimes painful to read. The chapters can stand alone as separate essays, but they are arranged chronologically; I can see this book being used in schools and colleges. That being said, it does cover three of the current standard-issue memoir topics: the immigrant experience, the father-son relationship, poverty, and how all three can contribute to the attraction of gang life for young men.

I was moved--me being me--by his stories about hi
Sep 06, 2009 Sydney rated it it was amazing
An inspirational story about a Vietnamese refugee boy who searched for love in all the wrong places, even when love wasn't around. A story full of hope and pain. Too many elements to describe here. Some readers will "get" this book while others will need to read two or three times. The cultural difference described in this book was written elegantly from both sides of the fence. This book is a diamond in the ruff.
May 06, 2011 Antoinette rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs, culture, e-book
It never even occurred to me to dislike the style of writing Lac Su used. To me the story was powerful enough that I hardly even noticed his word choice or sentence structure. This is a book about love, family, tradition, culture, America, youth, and pain. If you have ever felt unloved and misunderstood by your family you will probably enjoy it. Certainly, if you have a family that has been attempting to capture the American dream you will be able to relate. Wonderful book.
May 13, 2010 Jami rated it liked it
What a tyrant his father was. If people don't like American's and don't want to associate with us, why do they insist on coming here and living off our government? Interesting book, I enjoyed learning about the Vietnam cultural differences.
May 09, 2010 Phyllis rated it liked it
The title and the reviews on Goodreads sucked me in, and I'm glad. I've known families from other cultures (including European ones) who did not say "I love you." The chapter in which the title is explained is so painful, I wished I could give Lac a hug--or give *any* kid a hug who's going through that kind of isolation.

If your edition has the "P.S." section, read that, too--even the part about the favorite songs. His story about Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All" is heartbreaking.

Erica Kan
Dec 05, 2014 Erica Kan rated it really liked it
After reading I Love Yous Are for White People by Lac Su, I felt a need to tell my family and friends that I love them. I usually read books that are positive and happy, but this was an exception. Some of the events that happened in the story felt and sounded unimaginable. It felt surreal reading about a cousin who crosses the line of your comfort zone or about uncles who catch live ducks to eat. This book helped me become more open minded to different cultures and their perspective of love. Wh ...more
Oct 10, 2013 Angel rated it really liked it
I'm white and not an immigrant, but I still connected with the book in some ways. It took me back to my college years when I lived with and was often surrounded by Vietnamese friends. I started missing the sound of the language and craving rice, summer rolls, fish sauce, and even pickled eggplant. Surprisingly I don't think he ever eats pho^ in the book. Some of the other dishes he eats- intestines, tripe, and even dog- inspired more of a "um, no thanks" from my tummy. I connected to more than j ...more
Dec 16, 2011 Leonor rated it really liked it
I love you is for white people
By Lac Su – Memoir

One day Lac hugs his father and tells him he loves him, his father answer is simply “I love you are for white people” Drawing for deep within him, in order to transcend his limitations he needs to create a better life for himself. Lac father demonstrate his love by protecting him, throughout his journey Lac never doubts his father commitment because he looks up to him, and listens to his advice. Lac tries to earn his father’s love, who became the
Colin McKay Miller
Aug 24, 2015 Colin McKay Miller rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Sadly, the best part of Lac Su’s I Love Yous Are For White People is the title.

Admittedly, it’s a great title, but you know what you’re getting yourself into. It’s about people who aren’t white, right? And if you had to guess what kind of memoir it is, you’d have decent odds of calling it out as an Asian immigration story. The memoir begins with Lac Su’s family escaping from Communist Vietnam. Upon immigrating to Los Angeles, they struggle to blend in to the American Dream. Lac Su’s father is s
Mike Mills
May 01, 2013 Mike Mills rated it liked it
At the heart of this harrowing and heartbreaking story is essentially a turbulent relationship between a father and a son. Their relationship is the backbone that connects these short stories together. But for me, it wasn't enough to keep me from being, at times, disconnected and frustrated. Presenting this memoir as a collection of short stories, told chronologically loses its impact, in that there is not a continuous flow. Some chapters are short and to the point and propels the story forward, ...more
Anjanette Wold
May 18, 2012 Anjanette Wold rated it really liked it
While I had a rough childhood with its own share of loss, tragedy and sadness, reading Lac Su's book made me realize there is always someone else who has had it harder than you. I got plenty of I Love Yous amidst a lot of pain so I am not sure if Lac would have wanted that.... His Pa reminded me of my mom in some ways. She was tough, mean and strict in my early days but as our lives got easier, so did she in a way. One thing that struck me is the whole butterfly affect, one or two decisions you ...more
Feb 01, 2010 Vy rated it really liked it
In this incredible memoir, Lac Su pulls you in right away with a heart-stopping account of his family's incredible escape from Vietnam. The adrenaline rush gives way to a flood of other emotions as you learn that that was just the beginning of what he endured growing up. The stories are disturbing and at some points, I had to just stop reading for awhile. It is courageous that the author, only in his 30's, has been able to go back and mentally revisit these relatively recent wounds in such a fra ...more
Jun 04, 2012 Chairness rated it liked it
A very engrossing, moving memoir about Lac Su's journey from Vietnam to PhD-hood that I literally could not put down. Su's prose is paradoxically matter of fact and yet simultaneously emotive, but only a way that adds to us understanding the situation of his life. He threads together numerous memories of his childhood with a bitterness and a tenderness, but in the end he is not angry with the beatings he suffered from his father or insecure about his life affiliated with two gangs and the subseq ...more
Rafi Bloch
Terrific memoir. Lac Su is genious. This makes you laugh out loud and cry. It is very reminscent of Augusten Burroughs. The first chapter begins with Lac running through the Vietnamese jungle with his father, sister, and mother. They barely make it out of communist Vietnam alive, and then move to LA. Lac deals with the physical abuse from his father, sexual abuse from a cousin, and the violence and drugs he lives around. He gets himself involved with a Vietnamese gang, the Street Ratz, and ends ...more
Sep 27, 2012 Suze rated it liked it
This book broke my heart in a dozen little ways. There were pieces of my experience and experiences I recognized reflected back at me, hitting oftentimes too close to home. They were experiences of a refugee family, financially struggling in North America. How the circumstances of family and family friends passing through can put the safety of children in the home at risk. The pain of the responsibility placed on a child with better English skills than their parents; the shame of having to do th ...more
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I love yous are for white people 2 18 Jan 10, 2012 09:45AM  
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“Striving to meet my father's expectations is like climbing out of quicksand: the harder I try to get to the top, the more I'm sucked back down by his unrelenting criticism.” 7 likes
“things feel safe here--neutered and sterile, but safe--like the whole place is devoid of passion and self-interest” 0 likes
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