New Yorker author Hua Hsu on sustaining family ties through fax

In his new memoir “Stay True” (Doubleday), New Yorker writer Hua Hsu recollects his teen years as a time of overcoming nice distances – each generational and world – one web page at a time.

When I was a young person, my father moved from our house in California to Taiwan for work. My mom and I stayed behind in the us So, my family purchased a pair of fax machines. 

In theory, this was so my father could assist me with my math homework. It was the early ’90s and faxing was cheaper than long-distance calling, and extra efficient. There had been no awkward silences.

I was starting highschool, and everything, like my grades and extracurricular activities, all of a sudden seemed consequential. Like many immigrants, my parents had faith in math – you couldn’t discriminate against the right answer.

“I really feel sorry that I can’t be round on a regular basis to support you whenever you want.”

I could all the time fax my father a query within the night and anticipate an answer by the point I awoke.  My homework requests have been normally marked “Urgent.” 

Hua Hsu

He replied with equations and proofs – and comments he thought would curiosity me.

“This year’s World Series was very thrilling, wasn’t it?”


Hua Hsu

We have been like two strangers trading small speak at a ironmongery shop.

“That’s the dilemma of life: you need to discover that means, but by the identical time, you need to accept the truth. What do you think?”

Through these makeshift dispatches, he tried so hard to mother or father, and relate. When Kurt Cobain, the lead singer of Nirvana, took his personal life in 1994, my father wrote: 

“We need to have emotion. That differentiate human being with machine, robot. But we also have to know the method to management it.”



But I was a younger person. It was the heyday of alternative tradition, and I was desperate to be totally different – from my mother and father, and from everyone else round me. My father’s faxes helped me grasp challenging mathematical concepts. Yet, there have been questions neither he nor my mom may help me navigate. 

“What I want to say is that we’ve to have perfect considering to change the world to be higher.”

Just as he was reacclimating himself to Taiwan, a place he had left many years prior, I was looking for my method within the suburbs of Silicon Valley. 

We managed to remain related.  But I was an American baby, and I was stressed, and I was looking for my folks.

For extra information:

Story produced by Mary Raffalli. Editor: George Pozderec. 

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