Ping Fu’s story is, sadly, not a unique one, at least as far as her time in China is concerned. Where she breaks from the masses is with how she turned those struggles and her horrific treatment into values that pushed her to succeed in the US, a world away from where she was raised. She takes trials that could break even the toughest spirit and finds a way to graceful transition that pain into determination and success.
I loved the organization of this book. Ping Fu (along with MeiMei Fox) interweave the stories of her childhood in China with her experiences in the US, not telling a chronological tale, but rather a story of cause and effect. This distinctive take on the memoir helps make the book stand out from all of the other personal stories on the market today that go from playful childhood to adolescent angst to adult trials and tribulations and finally some sort of personal triumph.
While Ping Fu’s story of her time in China fascinated me, and I enjoyed her early years in America, I do have to say that the discussions of the 3D technology left me wanting more. Maybe it is my lack of technological prowess, but even with the explanations, I had a hard time picturing exactly what it is she was creating. The other part of the book that didn’t resonate with me was this desire to start a company, any company. Entrepreneurship is a keystone of the American dream, but I always imagined that folks who started companies did so because they loved the product it created; they had a passion for whatever created the foundation of the company. But for Ping Fu, it was almost as if she wanted to get in on the dot.com boom, regardless of the product. Over time, I felt like she came to be truly invested in her 3D design, but that it wasn’t the reason for the company. And maybe this is true of many small business people- that it is about being in business, not which one specifically.
The thing that most impresses me about Ping Fu is her attitude. If anyone has a right to be angry and bitter, it is her. And yet, throughout the book, she never talks ill of her birth country. She recognizes the bad- there is no glossing over that, but she reconciles the anger and uses that passion to push herself to greatness. The same can be said of her business contacts. While she doesn’t sugar coat the world of technology and we see her frustrations with certain people/events, she never speaks badly of those people, choosing instead to take the high road and look at situations from a variety of viewpoints.
This book is an interesting mix of personal memoir and business self-help, but ultimately, it works. I would have like to see more of a focus on her childhood and early days in the US, as for me those were the most interesting parts, but I can see where other readers would be drawn to the details of technology and entrepreneurship. Ping Fu’s Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds, earns a solid 3 shells!
(With the computer difficulties I am having, I can’t find a way to actually put three shells on the page. Here is one…imagine the others!)