“I Love Yous Are for the White People” by Lac Su

Pages: 6
Words: 1693


Literature is a unique instrument that provides the readers with the power to see others’ thoughts and feelings. “I Love Yous Are for the White People” is an excellent example of such a literary function. This novel deals with a highly important issue of racial disparities and the hardships faced by people of different origins. The book represents the memoirs of its author, Lac Su, who is forced to leave Vietnam at a young age.

The writing vividly describes the challenges faced by recent immigrants in Los Angeles. In addition, it raises the topic of ethnic inequality in the United States, highlighting how difficult it is for people of different cultural backgrounds to find their place in the new country. However, the message of the novel remains positive, as Lac Su manages to overcome his hardships and earn a place in the developed society. Nevertheless, the eventual success does not diminish the importance of the prior struggle, which stems from systemic issues within the nation. This paper examines the novel “I Love Yous Are for the White People” in terms of its contents, message, and learning value.


Lac Su begins to tell the story of his life from the point when his family had to flee Vietnam amid the tensions between its communist and capitalist sides. His father, Pa, was a successful business owner in Communist Vietnam. However, their life took a major turn when Pa was on the verge of being denounced by the government for his alleged collaboration with the United States (Su, 2009). In response to these daunting prospects, the family is forced to leave their country of origin and embark on a ship that takes them to Hong Kong and later to the United States. Following the escape, Lac Su and his relatives settle in a modest apartment in a poor area of Los Angeles.

Pa is no longer a respected businessman and has to work as a cook for a minimum wage. Subsequently, the family’s struggle for assimilation and acceptance commences, which is highlighted by Su’s experience at the American school.

It is important to note that the school is located in a neighborhood populated by ethnic minorities, meaning that each student had to face certain disparities in life. In response to systemic issues, these people had to nurture an aggressive attitude in themselves. When Su comes to school in a suit and a tie, the rest of the students mock him violently. Furthermore, the narrator struggles to maintain the good results of his learning, which frustrates his father as well. Eventually, the stress caused by the new environment prevails, rendering Pa aggressive. He beats his son for failures at school, contributing to the further deterioration of the latter’s mental state (Su, 2009).

At the same time, Su is molested by his cousin for several years. As a result, the narrator begins to seek company in other places, which pushes him toward the Kingsley Street Boys, a local gang. Su befriends one of the bullies named Javi and even steals money from his mother for him. These events aggravate the problems between Su and his father, leading to further beating and humiliation.

In the fallout of one of the most serious conflicts, the family moves to another area. Upon relocating to Alhambra, Pa encourages Su to socialize with other immigrants from Asia. Nevertheless, the latter explicitly refuses to comply and becomes friends with a boy from Mexico. Later in the story, Su’s defiance takes him to another street gang. This experience introduces the narrator to a new world of crime and substance abuse, thus pushing him down a slippery slope.

While his connection with the gang grows stronger, conflicts at home are rendered even more violent. However, in the culmination of the story, Su has to face the drawbacks of his new lifestyle when a rival gang violently attacks him. As Pa helps his son by tending to his wounds, they finally reconcile and agree that Su will feel better at a different, white school. In the end, the author suggests that being accepted by his father is the most important kind of recognition he desired.


The memoir “I Love Yous are for the White People” demonstrates a simple, linear narration. However, the absence of structural complexity does not prevent Su from conveying strong messages. The novel deals with topical issues, which retain their nature in the 21st century. As a matter of fact, the story is highly emotional, as it evokes feelings that are familiar to most of the audience. Family relations and corresponding tensions are at the center of discussion.

While Su and Pa’s problems may be highly specific, the emotional aspect of them is not uncommon. The issue of fathers and sons is age-old, as, unfortunately, the difference of opinions may reach critical levels. The tragedy of the story is explained by the fact that, while two generations of the family continue to argue, they, in fact, seek a similar outcome. Both Su and his father pursue recognition upon settling in a new land. Nevertheless, they are unable to find a compromise until the end of the story, which adds a dramatic dimension to the novel.

Throughout most of the plot, Su pursues a path of mistakes. This situation is understandable, as it can be explained through the prism of the boy’s immaturity. The lack of recognition often prompts young people to demonstrate anti-social behavior. For them, it may be a manifestation of protest, as well as a way of attracting the desired attention. Pa’s frustration is equally clear because he had to lose his status and wealth in the fallout of a political crisis. In other words, the fate of a single-family became the victim of disputes between the world’s superpowers. On a global scale, such a development may be diminished to the status of collateral damage. Su’s writing seems to highlight the adverse consequence of political mistakes and systemic flaws, showing policy-makers how people’s lives are damaged by their actions. Therefore, the author uses his memoirs to address the disparities on all levels.

Upon arriving at a new school in Los Angeles, Su becomes the victim of bullying and contempt. Interestingly, most of the students appear to be of various, non-white origins. The author of the memoir does not attempt to compromise the images of ethnic minorities. On the contrary, these people develop their aggression as a natural response to severe ostracism from their society. More specifically, “I Love Yous are for the White People” shows how systemic discrimination translates into individual instances of hostility. Strong racial imaging is reflected even in the title of the memoir. Notwithstanding the perceived message, Su does not attempt to diminish white people from an emotional point of view. The idea is to emphasize the gap created by systemic issues and dividing people of different origins. Such problems have introduced severe socioeconomic disparities for people like Su and his family, thus causing a logical response.

Learning Summary

“I Love Yous are for the White People” carries an immense learning value, as it illustrates the hardships of large social groups in modern society. Violence is an important theme, which threads through the story. Its international form causes the conflict, which forces Su’s family to flee their home in Vietnam. Next, violence is present across various sections of the memoir, both physically and emotionally.

From one perspective, Su often becomes subject to severe aggression, being beaten by his own father and rival street gangs. Interestingly, the former leaves a stronger impact on both the narrator and the reader, even though the latter caused more serious physical damage. The conflict between Pa and Su persists through the entirety of the memoir, and its resolution outweighs the remaining negativity. This example serves to emphasize the importance of healthy relations within the family. If its members support and listen to each other, the family becomes more than just a group of relatives. Instead, it forms of strong unity capable of overcoming even the most serious hardships of life.

From a more global perspective, Lac Su’s memoir addresses profound issues of society. More specifically, it enables insight into the struggle of oppressed social groups. These people experience violence and discrimination in all forms and on a regular basis. Su highlights the oppression on all three levels, which are individual, institutional, and systemic. On the first level, hostility follows these people in their daily lives, and Su faces it in the form of his classmates’ aggression (Su, 2009).

The presence of hostility creates an unfavorable environment within the school and the neighborhood, which, in turn, addresses institutional disparities. Finally, all these issues appear to revolve around global policies which leave entire minority groups on the margins of society. Even though Su manages to excel at his studies, his earlier struggle remains with him. It serves to remind the narrator and the reader that there are millions of peoples who continue to feel the same pain and the lack of recognition as young Lac Su.


Ultimately, the author of “I Love Yous are for the White People” manages to convey strong messages in a simple, conceivable form. Lac Su’s memoir is filled with emotional aspects, which invite the reader to participate in a topical discussion. In fact, the writing artfully addresses profound issues that continue to contaminate the social landscape of the 21st century. Su and his family become the victims of a global political game, which disregards the value of human life.

As a result, they are forced to seek safety and security overseas. In the case of Lac Su, it was not the family’s choice to abandon Vietnam and move to Los Angeles. Instead, they were forced to disrupt their normal lifestyle and relocate for the sake of their own safety. However, they are met with contempt and a lack of recognition. While Su manages to overcome the disparities, his example remains an exception confirming the general rule. The discrimination persists, and the works, such as “I Love Yous are for the White People,” become crucial instruments that educate a wider audience on the hardships of certain social groups.


Su, L. (2009). I love yous are for white people: A memoir. Harper Perennial.