cover image Stay True: A Memoir

Stay True: A Memoir

Hua Hsu. Doubleday, $26 (208p) ISBN 978-0-385-54777-2

New Yorker staff writer Hsu braids music, art, and philosophy in his extraordinary debut. As a second-generation Taiwanese American coming of age in 1990s Cupertino, Calif., Hsu traversed an evolving cultural climate with rebellious gusto, finding creative expression in zines and developing, as he writes, a “worldview defined by music.” At UC Berkeley Hsu met Ken, an extroverted, “mainstream” frat-brother whose only similarity to Hsu was that he was Asian American. Yet despite their differences, an unlikely friendship bloomed. In lyrical prose punctuated with photos, Hsu recalls smoke-filled conversations—from the philosophy of Heidegger to the failures of past relationships—trolling chat rooms and writing a movie script with Ken as they navigated a world teeming with politics and art, and basked in the uncertainty of a future both fearsome and enthralling. That future came to a harrowing end when Ken was murdered, leaving Hsu to fend for himself while unraveling the tragedy. As he recounts sinking into songs “of heartbreak and resurrection,” Hsu parses the grief of losing his friend and eloquently captures the power of friendship and unanswerable questions spurred in the wake of senseless violence. The result is at once a lucid snapshot of life in the nineties, an incredible story of reckoning, and a moving elegy to a fallen friend. (Sept.)