We Were Dreamers: An Immigrant Superhero Origin Story by Simu Liu

When we start talking about origin stories, we’re normally talking about one specific moment in a person’s life before they became something more than what they were. In the case of Simu Liu, he takes the reader back to before his parents met and shows everything that made him who he is today. Today he’s known as that one actor who tweeted at Marvel and somehow manifested his dream into reality.

We Were Dreamers is a conversational memoir written by someone who has always felt the need to strive towards something more, even if it made him unhappy in the moment. Liu dissects his family dynamics with wry tones and class clown-level self-deprecation. From his parents secretly dating in school to his times as a precocious and cranky four-year-old with his grandparents right up to his snoozes in accounting meetings with his boss.

The central theme of the book carried through as being first of all true to yourself as much as possible, and even if it’s hard, to just keep on trying, keep on dreaming. What seems like a trite message carries an authentic tone because Liu in fact did not have an easy life. He faced racism and prejudice and handled the combined privilege of his parents paying for his rent with the overwhelming costs of their expectations as well as any other person might. Sounds like a millennial to me.

One thing that stood out in this read was how upfront Liu was about how he ended up writing this book; he sat down with people and made sure to include their sides or their assessments of the situation. Never is this made more clear when, in a conversation with his agent, he hears “you don’t have that it factor”. When discussing the moment with his agent later in writing this memoir, his agent disagrees but allows him to keep it in the book to explore how that moment impacted Liu. Liu on his part includes that moment.

Readers who have difficulty with child abuse should take care with this story, as it may be triggering. I personally cannot imagine the strength and stubbornness it must have taken to sit down with Siu’s parents to confirm and fact-check these moments in his life. Reading these parts made me overcome with emotion and sadness for that younger Simu.

This is a fascinating read about the background of one of the most celebrated Asian actors of our time with an in-depth and honest portrayal of an Asian diasporic existence. Liu shares the good and the bad and the embarrassing with humour and grace in what feels like an honest attempt to reach out and connect, which rings true for him considering what he tells us about his relationship with his parents.

I found it quite easy to identify and connect with Liu and his writing tone. Maybe it’s because we’re a month apart in age, maybe because we’ve grown up experiencing extremes of having money or not having enough to get by. Perhaps it’s also Liu’s tendency to lean towards self-deprecation and humour to handle tough conversations. I’ve always heard it’s hard to begin a story because of the expectations of readers and it must be doubly hard when he begins with stories about his parents where he ends up being the narrator. I’m not sure if that played out in this memoir but I can say Liu’s voice shines throughout the parts of his story. It can be practically felt through the page how much he loves being an actor.

I look forward to when Liu is given the go-ahead to write about his experience working on the set of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

Simu Liu is an actor and writer best known for his work on Marvel Studios’ Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, in five seasons of the beloved family sitcom Kim’s Convenience, and for manifesting his dreams into existence with a Tweet. He wishes he had tweeted for something a bit better – like world peace, or for his parents to finally say “I love you”. He lives in Los Angeles, Toronto, and wherever the best tax credits for film production are. 

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ HarperCollins Publishers (May 17 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 304 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1443460591
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1443460590

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