In his memoir, Talk Thai: The Adventures of Buddhist Boy (University of Missouri Press), Ira Sukrungruang suffers in ways that only the child of immigrants can. He has the wrong clothes (brown pants, pink button-downs, and thick glasses), the wrong haircut ("the classic Thai schoolboy crew cut" in the era of the shag), and the other kids complain that his lunch smells like poo (it's called fish sauce, people, and it's delicious). And yet, in this classic coming-of-age memoir, what is striking is not how different Sukrungruang's experience is from white American kids', but how similar it is. He struggles with bullies and religion both inside and outside of his Buddhist temple, his father pressures him (in this case, on the golf course), he and his best friends have sleepovers and surreptitiously watch porn, and, eventually, his friendships and family seem to be falling apart as everyone grows up. Sukrungruang's memoir is less the story of an immigrant kid and more the story of an American kid. He is brilliantly paired with Kao Kalia Yang, Minnesota author of The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir (Coffee House Press) for this reading.
Wed., Aug. 4, 7:30 p.m., 2010
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