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Review: Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds, Ping Fu

bend not breakPing Fu is the incredibly successful founder and CEO of Geomagic, Inc. She’s been Entrepreneur of the Year in Time Magazine and met President Barack Obama. But she also spent her childhood living in a furniture-less dorm with her little sister during Mao’s Cultural Revolution in China. She’s been beaten and raped simply because her family was well-to-do and educated. She was thrust into a role of responsibility at a very young age, punished constantly, and finally deported from her native country with no ability to speak English and no idea what to do with her life. Her story is one of contrasts and success against all the odds.

A couple of years ago I read quite a few books featuring the Cultural Revolution. China is a fascinating country that is completely outside my own experience. Ping Fu’s book Bend, Not Break┬ápromised to combine this history with the story of a woman living the American dream.

Ping’s story is a true testament to the power of her own will and ability to seize opportunities as they come. She is beaten down regularly from a very young age, but she’s also determined to make something of herself. She never lets her experiences truly box her in, and as soon as she’s given the opportunity at a Chinese university, she straight away starts trying to make a difference. It’s no surprise that when she lands in the United States speaking little more than “hello” and “thank you” that she immediately begins to make something of herself. She learns English quickly, enrolls in a good university, and begins waitressing to pay the bills.

This was a surprisingly inspiring book which shows how far you can go simply on the basis of trying very hard. The author is very clear that things were challenging for her; she loved software development, which she eventually made her career, but she only loved parts of it, and it’s those parts that she focused on to become a success. She struggles with being a CEO in particular; in a world dominated by tall white men, she feels out of place, and for a time believes that she needs a handsome, charming tall white guy to make her business successful (this is one case where she’s wrong). She’s not afraid to admit when she’s wrong or where she has a disadvantage and she always does her best to surmount it.

Since finishing this book, I’ve read some very critical articles online which state that many of the events in the book aren’t quite true. Like most memoirs, parts of the book simply have to be imagined. I doubt anyone can remember an exact quote from their mother from the age of eight (I certainly can’t). There are claims that she was as thoroughly a Red Guard as the other children, and that deportation was a crime reserved for more severe offenses, mostly by other Chinese people. This has made it difficult for me to recommend the book, but having read previously about how difficult the Cultural Revolution was, I choose to believe the author’s story. I think that’s a decision every reader will have to make.

I received this book for free for review. All external book links are affiliate links.

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