Friendship. It’s really what Stay True (Doubleday, 2022) is all about.

It’s also about Hua Hsu coming of age in the 1990s in the Bay Area, what it means to be a second generation Taiwanese-American, and life as a college student at Berkeley.

Today, he is a college professor in his mid-40s. But that’s not what his memoir is about. It’s mostly about those formative undergraduate years.

This is such a poignant story because Hsu took copious notes in his journal when he was younger. This allowed him to write a deeper, more authentic recollection of this time in his life that mere memories could not have conveyed.

I had not read anything about the book, so I didn’t know the twists and turns it would take. It was another recommendation from a year-end list of books; this time I think from PBS.

At times I wasn’t sure why I was listening to this memoir. And yet I kept listening. Hsu’s words captivated me. His story grew on me. I started to care about him and his friends.

I should have been ready for the pivotal moment. But I wasn’t.

We all have a story or two or three to tell that others would benefit from hearing or reading about. We have significant people who come into our lives. Some who stay, some who don’t. Whether they physically remain, they are impactful and make us who we are.

Perhaps this book hit me more because I finished it the weekend before going to a friend’s memorial. A friend who was only a couple years older than me. Maybe it gripped me because I finished it a few days before another friend’s birthday, a friend who really isn’t a friend anymore for reasons that are still a bit inexplicable.

Friendship is a universal concept. That alone is why most people will be able to identify with this book.

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