In his new memoirs “Stay Faithful” (Doubleday), New Yorker writer Hua Hsu recalls her teenage years as a time of bridging great distances—both generational and global—one page at a time.

When I was a teenager, my father moved from our home in California to Taiwan for work. My mother and I stayed in the United States. So my family bought a couple of fax machines.

In theory, it was so that my father could help me with my math homework. This was in the early 90s and faxes were cheaper than long distance and more efficient. There was no awkward silence.

I was starting high school and everything, like my grades and extracurriculars, suddenly seemed so final. Like many immigrants, my parents believed in math – you couldn’t tell the right answer.

“I’m sorry I can’t be there all the time to support you when you need me.”

I could always fax a question to my father at night and expect an answer when I woke up. My homework requests were usually marked “Due”.


Hua Hsu

He responded with equations and proofs – and comments that he thought I would find interesting.

“This year’s World Series was pretty exciting, wasn’t it?”


Hua Hsu

We were like two strangers talking in a hardware store.

“That’s the dilemma of life: you have to find meaning, but at the same time you have to accept reality. What do you think?’

He tried so hard to be a father and communicate through these impromptu mailings. When Kurt Cobain, lead singer of Nirvana, committed suicide in 1994, my father wrote:

“We must have emotions that distinguish a person from a machine, a robot. But we also need to know how to manage them.”


But I was a teenager. It was the heyday of alternative culture and I was desperate to be different from my parents and everyone else around me. My father’s faxes helped me understand complex math concepts. However, there were questions in which neither he nor my mother could understand me.

“My point is that we have to have a perfect mindset to change the world for the better.”

While he was acclimatizing in Taiwan, a place he left decades ago, I was trying to find my way in the suburbs of Silicon Valley.

We managed to stay in touch. But I was an American kid, and I was restless, and I was looking for my people.

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The plot was prepared by Mary Raffali. Editor: George Pazderets.