Cover Image: Stay True

Stay True

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A moving and thoughtful memoir filled with life, deep emotion. and an examination of relationships. I enjoyed myself here and will not forget this soon.
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I really enjoyed the more reflective sections of this memoir related to Hsu's family and relationships with his college friends, particularly Ken. But I found too much of this was about his personal interests and zine and it began to drag after awhile. The references to 90's music and culture was complementary to the story at the beginning, but eventually became overstated and redundant. I understand why it was important for Hsu to navigate his own interests and demeanor throughout his memoir, and I wonder if the combination of it's more matter of fact / dry writing style along with the former that didn't work for me.

I enjoyed the last 40% more than the first 60%.  While I can say I don't regret reading this, there are so many stellar memoirs I have come across over the years and it just didn't land. Heavy by Kiese Laymon and Know My Name by Chanel Miller immediately come to mind.
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As someone who heavily associates music with every memory and moment in my life, I loved the emphasis on music as the soundtrack to the friendship. This is a story of grief and an opposites-attract friendship- and while that doesn't always work in real life, it certainly does here. It is also a moving story of what it means to be American, and the ways that children of immigrants find themselves in a place that is not the most welcoming to them. Through music and pop culture, the main character finds footing in who he is and establishes identity. I loved the nostalgia and depictions of friendship, and the capture of the zeitgeist in America in the 90s. I'm not sure this book is for everyone as it is rather intellectual and covers topics that, if not interested in, you may lose interest in the book itself. But that's every book, no?
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"Friendship is about the willingness to know, rather than be known.”

Good Lord, this knocked me out. Some of the most beautiful writing and explanation of emotion I have ever laid my eyes on. Hua Hsu is a once in a lifetime talent and I need about 100 more books from him. How is it even possible to do such beautiful things with so little plot?  I was captivated.
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This book is by no means bad but was just not for me. I got about 40% of the way and it just didn't keep my interest. I felt some similarity to the author with the interest in music but the philosophical part was hard for me to pay attention to. I will not be reviewing this on my social medias, as I value each person's voice in a memoir and don't want to discount that.
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Stay True is a comforting book written by a Taiwanese man whose Japanese friend was murdered. Author Hsu writes about his 1990s college days, the music he listened to, and the times he spent with Ken talking philosophy, political science, women, and Asian American culture. Readers will never listen to the Beach Boys song "God Only Knows" or Dave Matthews Band "Crash Into Me" without thinking about Hua and Ken and their college days. An essential selection for book discussion groups.
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I cannot believe I spaced on recommending this amazing book. It's all over end of year critic's lists, and for good reason. It's beautifully written and absolutely heartbreaking.
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This memoir is in many of the best of 2022 lists. The writing is faultless and the writer is engaging.  About a friendship in college with a seemingly opposite type, the strongest part of the story is the second half. I couldn't relate to the music and cinema as it wasn't my decade but the longing and grief and trying to find yourself at a young age are universal components not only of the college experience but life in general. The philosophical leanings and finding your tribe are all relatable.  I would have liked to know more about his visits with his parents and their background but that's not this story.The therapy scenes were favorites and I would like more. A good read worthy of the accolades.

Copy provided by the publisher and NetGalley
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"Stay true to yourself. True to who you might have become."

I love diving into non-fiction for a million reasons but my favorite is leaving the story with a renewed knowledge. I love being able to absorb new information. Memoirs are so brilliant in the sense that you're not just reading facts and dates but you're getting a first hand-perspective at an event or moment that shaped someone's life. 

Hua Hsu's Stay True is a book I wouldn't normally pick up and I hate to admit that but I went outside of my comfort zone. I am so glad I did because I learned a lot about Asian American heritage and going up in the early ninety's. 

"It's fucked up the way it is sometimes." 

Stay True is focused around Hua Hsu's friendship with Ken and the moment that shaped his world. Ken was murdered in a car-jacking one evening leaving Hua pondering about his space in American culture. I could feel his devastation through the grief that he described throughout the entirety of the memoir. Ken's friendship and passing truly shaped his mindset about the world around him and how he views himself. 

It's tough reading about a racially motivated violence like the one Hua Hsu experienced. It's unfair that specific groups aren't accepted for their values and upbringing. I feel that reading memoirs such as Stay True I can help better educate myself and advocate to help shape a kinder world for tomorrow. It was heartbreaking having to grieve alongside Hua yet his growth is what makes his story so powerful. 

While I did learn a lot about Hua Hsu's culture and the violence that Asian Americans experience, this was a story that made you think about understanding your true being and learning about your own identity. Hua described himself as a person who was ahead of the crowd when it came to "popular" ideals. He always wanted to set a trend rather than follow the crowd especially when it came to movies, music and fashion. He was very individualist and judged people who didn't fit his mold. 

But when he meets and accepts Ken into his life, he seems to change. Their bond drastically changed Hua's mindset. 

The writing style shows that this stories focus is growing up and learning about yourself as an individual. The moments that Hua recalls are sporadic and feel random yet I think that accurately represents how our minds, personalities, hobbies, desires and ideas constantly change when our life continues to unfold in front of us. 

At one point he poses the question "What does it mean to truly be yourself?" I think that this question accurately represents the whole idea of his coming of age story. Identifying your "true self" comes with time and defining moments. 

Thank you Doubleday Books and NetGalley for the advanced copy of Hua Hsu's memoir! You can purchase this coming to age non-fiction now!
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Stay True by Hua Hsu is a beautifully written memoir that reflects on his friend who was tragically killed in college. 
Though a quick read, it was profound and moving. Hua has so many memories of his friendship with Ken that he writes about as well as what he discovers about himself when going to therapy.
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A lovely, elegiac memoir about Hsu's college best friend, who tragically dies--I loved reading about growing up Asian American in the 90's in Berkeley.
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I really enjoyed reading Stay True. It is a memoir of a young man who is struggling to find his way as an Asian American. The first chapters describe his relationship with his parents in a very honest way. I was enthralled.

He then tells about his college friends and kids he meets through volunteer work. This memoir is beautifully written and dives into male friendships in a way I haven’t thought about before. 

The heartache in this book is palpable and real. I highly recommend picking this book up.

Thank you to NetGalley for this free ebook.
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This beautiful debut book by Hua Hsu is a memoir that effectively pulled me into his story and even though I am decades older than him and a white woman, I could relate to his memories of going to college and finding your friend group and trying to figure out who you are.  He is a child of Taiwanese immigrants and when his father returns part-time to Taiwan for career opportunities, they fax each other letters and homework.  These letters and his father's advice were incredibly moving to me.  I don't want to give away too much but this book is about finding yourself, finding your "tribe" and dealing with grief and loss and ultimately hope.  I could not put this book down and highly recommend it. I look forward to other writing by this author.

Thank you to Netgalley and Doubleday Books for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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This is a fabulous coming of age memoir that also serves as a moving tribute to the author's college best friend. I loved the photos he used at the beginning of each section.
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Thank you NetGalley and Doubleday Books for accepting my request to read and review Stay True.

Author:  Hua Hsu
Published:  09/27/22
Genre:  Biographies & Memoirs -- Nonfiction (Adult)

My relationship with memoirs is love/hate.  The question is should I read the entire description or continue to skim?  This old dog can be tweaked.  I haven't decided.  There are so many bullet points in Stay True that I would have reaped.  

He was/is an immigrant child, and that cannot change.  His parents ideal family and teachings are vastly different than the nonexistent American standards (My opinion.).    What is not different, is his desire to be noticed for everything but his Taiwanese heritage.  Ironically that makes him like everyone.  We all want a friend.  

In my opinion, the cultural differences hurt him visually.  At one point he thought he was being mocked for his daily clothing.  You'll have to read the book for the truth.  Like we all do, he tried to fit in.  He suffered loss, gained growth, and became educated.

I recommend this memoir as a reminder, don't judge a book/person by the/their cover.
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I tried for many chapters to really like this book. I think it was a good idea but turned out to be too long. The author went on and on with every single thing that went through his head. It really needs to be edited down to get to the most important points. Sorry, I really want to give all books I read a great rating.
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Review posted at BookBrowse: s

The title of Hua Hsu's requiem-like memoir, Stay True, captures the essence of its contents. The phrase refers to an in-joke between then-undergraduate Hsu and his friend Ken, who was later murdered — an event that had an enduring impact on the author.

With the help of his journals from the time, New Yorker staff writer Hsu recounts his college years at Berkeley, and then Harvard. Born in 1977, Hsu is a Gen-Xer who reached college age in the 1990s, a decade that calls to mind fax machines, grunge rock bands like Nirvana and the early days of the internet. Period details permeate this memoir, and become an organic component of the writer's experiences, drawing readers into his world.

The son of Taiwanese immigrants, Hsu spent his early college years exploring his sense of self and feeling out his niche. Spending much of his time in record stores around the San Francisco Bay area, music became a way of seeking meaning and articulating identity. He says at one point, "I judged people by their CD collections" — the subtext being that identity can be consciously constructed by collecting music that is associated with a particular social group. In other words, it was possible to "choose who you wanted to be." This notion of defining oneself through music highlights the importance of finding one's place in the world. While the pursuit of identity is a goal for most young people, Hsu's status as a second-generation immigrant adds another layer of complexity to his quest.

This fragmented sense of self also becomes manifest through Hsu's burgeoning interest in zines (see Beyond the Book); their eclecticism and subculture vibe ooze a desire to eschew all things mainstream and forge a unique persona. Poignantly, he declares that zines were "a way to find a tribe." This introduces a dilemma: how to fit in yet remain unique. Hsu's retrospections resonate — many of us have gone through similar stages in life.

Hsu delivers his recollections in a style that is both journalistic and intimate. It is a style that comes into its own when covering his friendship with Ken. Initially, Hsu finds Ken "too loud for life" and says he "hated him." Also of Asian descent, Ken has fully assimilated into American culture when they meet at Berkeley, unlike Hsu. With his penchant for Abercrombie & Fitch, Pearl Jam and smoking, Ken is thoroughly mainstream and, in Hsu's eyes, indistinguishable from the crowd — a stereotypical "frat boy." And yet, a bond develops. Ken becomes a permanent fixture in Hsu's life, establishing a friendship characterized by everyday college interactions, regular car journeys and late-night conversations while puffing on cigarettes. Hsu discovers hidden depths in his friend that he hadn't previously acknowledged. Ken becomes so knitted into the fabric of Hsu's life, and that of their peers, as to function as an essential limb of their collective body.

So when Ken's body is discovered one July morning, the victim of a carjacking and fatal shooting, the impact is cataclysmic. The positioning of this event within Hsu's narrative is symbolic in that it occurs around the halfway point. The tragedy splits Hsu's life in two — the before and the after — and reflects the central role Ken played in his life. Hsu becomes increasingly introspective, although this brings him no closer to "fathoming darkness." The second half of the narrative places much emphasis on his difficulty in coming to terms with the aftermath of tragedy.

Ultimately, Stay True is also a book about writing. Hsu turns to journaling his thoughts and experiences in the wake of Ken's murder, and while the purpose of this was probably more to do with working through his grief than for posterity, his journals clearly became an invaluable source for this narrative. That the end result is this memoir suggests that Hsu did find some form of catharsis in the writing process, and in sharing his exploration of friendship, loss and selfhood. His writing is understated, a style that is the perfect vehicle for the content but may not be to every reader's taste. Likewise, the musical references that pepper this memoir are a strength in that they provide rich cultural detail, but, to a certain degree, they rely on the reader's familiarity with the references for their full impact to be conveyed. Nevertheless, Stay True is a visceral, honest memoir with the potential to connect with a wide readership.
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Honestly, I had a little trouble getting into this book. Perhaps it is because I simply don't relate to the nineties (too old!) and was more interested in the Asian American aspects of this story. I think younger readers will identify much better than I did and enjoy the descriptions of nineties culture and the backgrounds of the two young men.

Thank you to NetGalley for an advance copy of this book. I know it will be loved by many readers.
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Stay True, Hua Hsu writes about his close bond with his Japanese American college friend Ken, who tragically dies.

Definitely a book that makes you remember what’s important in life and cherish the moments with the people you love.  Interesting read.

Like a memoir/written Journal.

Thank you to NetGalley for a copy for an honest review.
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Stay True us a memoir written by a Taiwanese American as he recalls  an intimate but unexpected college friendship cut short by tragedy.

Hsu, now an English professor and staff writer at the New Yorker, began his undergraduate years at Berkeley. He was unique in that he loved indie bands and creating zines. “I saw coolness,” he writes, “as a quality primarily expressed through erudite discernment, and I defined who I was by what I rejected, a kitchen sink approach to negation that resulted in essays decrying Beverly Hills, 90210, hippies, private school, George Bush…and, after they became trendy, Pearl Jam.”  

One day he meets Japanese American fraternity brother Ken. He quickly wrote him off as “a genre of person I actively avoided—mainstream.” But interestingly enough they did hit it off, and to Hsu’s surprise, he and Ken grew very close. They found common interest such as dissecting classic cult movies.  They wrote  a screenplay inspired by the cult classic film The Last Dragon, prompting long conversations about the nature of Black and Asian solidarity. As time passed, their relationship grew more personal, in that Hsu sought out Ken for advice the night Hsu planned to lose his virginity, and years later, Hsu tentatively referred to Ken as his best friend. 

Then, something tragic occurs. Ken is randomly murdered in a carjacking incident after leaving a party. This loss plunges Hsu into a world of grief and self-blame that lasts  for years. 

This memoir is written with exquisite  emotion and tenderness, as Hsu intimately shares his memories of an unexpected but nurturing, and compassionate friendship. 

Here is a stunning story of a unique friendship, then grief, then recovery. 

It will remain in your mind long after reading the last words. 

The text is rich in vocabulary and at times this reader consulted The Oxford Dictionary for clarity.
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