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Bend, Not Break

Unexpected packages are the best! Well, non work-related unexpected packages, that is. The other day, that sort of package arrived on our doorstep. It gets better. It was addressed…to me! It was from my British auntie, who had heard a gripping UK radio interview with a Chinese woman named Ping Fu, and thought to send me her book. Awww!

In her rags-to-riches type memoir entitled Bend Not Break – A Life in Two Worlds, Ping Fu offers the reader a rare insight inside her shocking childhood, which took place during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). During this time, children like Ping who had educated parents, were torn away from their parents to repent for ‘making the Chinese working class suffer’. Meanwhile, her parents faced their own forced penitence in the form of labor camps. Ping describes her peaceful childhood in Shanghai shattered by a dark decade of scrounging for food, being gang raped and beaten, and forced to hurt herself publicly for the “crimes” committed by her family. Ping was ultimately thrown out of China in her twenties for exposing her first hand accounts on female infanticide in rural China. Today, Ping is an accomplished entrepreneur and CEO of the American 3D imaging company, Geomagic.

I got through the book last night, and wow, what a beautifully written memoir about resilience in a dark period of Chinese history. Most interesting to me, however, was the gradual cultural transformation of this young woman throughout her remarkable journey. In her writings and triggered by her exile, Ping very much fits the Third Culture Adult (TCA) profile (not to be confused with the Adult Third Culture Kid (ATCK), who is a grown Third Culture Kid). Indeed, she remains undeniably Chinese in her values of family loyalty, common good and humility, but has adopted many traits of her host culture’s identity (the United States) like free speech, entrepreneurship and generosity. I loved the many cultural observations she included in the book, such as this one, from when she had just arrived in America:

“In China, we didn’t believe the propaganda that the government fed us on a daily basis. In America, I realized that propaganda still existed, only it was far subtler. It came from the media companies and advertisers rather than directly from the government. It was clever with a lot of science behind it. People could end up brainwashed without even being aware of it. We didn’t have free speech in China, but we were free thinkers. In America I sometimes wondered if the opposite was true.”

Today, Ping is under fire from a mob of cyber critics for releasing her book ‘of lies’. Many reviews using Chinese pseudonyms have flooded Amazon with one star reviews of her memoir after an article was released about her in China, and after the infamous blogger Fang Zhouzi accused Ping of selling fake tragedy to the American people. Even the five star reviews are filled with entries with titles like: “AWESOME book…of lies!”. It would be almost comical except for the fact that virtually every highly visible article or person that praises her memoir, comes under serious attack. (I wouldn’t be surprised if I get some new visitors to this blog as a result of this post.) I’m not so sure why anyone would choose to lie about being gang raped, but even this is being questioned. However, whether or not the stories she tells are true, no one seems to be discounting the cruelty she witnessed towards baby girls.

As the cyber attack continues to harass Ping and anyone who stands up for her (and other hacking incidents mysteriously pop up at Apple, Facebook, the New York Times and countless other US governmental operations, from Shanghai’s Datong Lu – ironically meaning “Great Harmony Road”), I decided not to engage in the sinister cyber war at all (besides posting this blog, of course!). Instead, I wrote Ping an old fashioned thank you note. I don’t think I have ever written an author before, but I think if I were her, I’d appreciate the encouragement. In my note, I thanked her for her vulnerability, particularly as an Asian Third Culture Adult. I also thanked her for speaking out against gendercide. Oh, and I also told her about this one awesome documentary film she should watch. 🙂

2 thoughts on “Bend, Not Break

  1. Looove reading your book review and the way you received this book, in particular! You know I love when people send one another care packages. Adding this book to my list of must reads!

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