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Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds Hardcover – December 31, 2012
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*Starred Review* China’s Cultural Revolution—when teachers were considered enemies of the state—brought about the displacement of thousands of children of merchants, bankers, college professors, and others. In 1966, Ping Fu was seized from wealthy relatives at age eight and suffered savage treatment and deprivation for years. As this fragile young girl comes of age in a communist work camp, a great mind emerges. Later, while attending college, she interviews mothers about the killing of thousands of female babies and creates what is considered subversive literature. For this she is eventually deported from her native land. Fu arrives in America with only a few dollars and a strong will to survive. These experiences cause her to reckon with both the cruelty and kindness of strangers and to foster amazing resilience. Fu’s later adult life reads like a fascinating Forrest Gump–style adventure as she encounters giants in the world of computer and Internet technology. As founder and CEO of Geomagic, “a 3-D digital reality solution company,” Fu speaks to the need for humanity to practice love in business relations in order to avoid inflicting pain on future generations. This well-written tale of courage, compassion, and undaunted curiosity reveals the life of a genuine hero who remains committed to making the world a better place. --Susan DeGrane
In this outstanding testament to the resilience of the human spirit, Ping takes readers on a journey both heartbreaking and inspiring.
--Publisher Weekly Review, 11/5/2012
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“She tells her story with intelligence, verve and a candor that is often heart-rending....Her life story is moving and inspiring. Like the people who gave her a helping hand, she is generous to share it with us.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“In this outstanding testament to the resilience of the human spirit, Ping takes readers on a journey both heartbreaking and inspiring . . . Ping’s eloquent prose and remarkable attitude shine through in every word.”
—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (starred review)
“An inspiring story . . . the book reflects the tone of its author: clear, honest and unassuming.”
“This well-written tale of courage, compassion, and undaunted curiosity reveals the life of a genuine hero who remains committed to making the world a better place.”
—BOOKLIST (starred review)
“This is an utterly unique memoir, a fascinating look at one woman’s journey from a difficult childhood in Mao’s China to the top of the American tech world.”
—TONY HSIEH, CEO of Zappos.com; author of Delivering Happiness
“Do not read this book if you reject kindness, humility, and ingenuity. With staggering authenticity and zero cliché, Ping’s story will shock you to your core. Your notion of human capacity will be redefined. It’s Rocky, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Gone With the Wind—all in one.”
—SALLY ROSENTHAL, executive producer of the documentary Between the Folds
“There are few people in our world who embody optimism like Ping Fu. She shows us how the human spirit can endure amazing hardship to find happiness, joy, and astounding success.”
—SIMON SINEK, author of Start with Why
“I could not put this book down. From surviving the insanity of China’s Cultural Revolution to the cutthroat antics of hi-tech venture capitalism, from low-life outcast to billionaire dealer—it’s amazing to believe this all happened in one person’s life. The lessons Ping Fu has so artfully accumulated are inspiring, heartening, educating, and entertaining.”
—KEVIN KELLY, Senior Maverick, Wired; author of What Technology Wants
“Resilience is the most essential element of life and business today, and there is no more shining role model for resilience (and grace and humility and a bunch of other qualities) than Ping Fu. The story of how she fled China under precarious circumstances, made a new life in the United States, and built a vibrant company should be required reading.”
—CHIP CONLEY, founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality; author of Peak and Emotional Equations
Top customer reviews
I am so disappointed. I heard of the name when she gave a talk at Google not long time ago, and I was amazed by her personal experience and wanted to know more, then I got this book. and after reading the book, I did feel something weird there, but didn't think too much about it. Now after reading the reviews, I realized what was wrong when I felt weird in reading. well, I am so sad.
This memoir is full of contradictory fabrications mixed with high-minded talking. A lot of the stories in this book have been proven fake beyond doubt. Ping Fu herself had to retract quite a few major claims and correct quite a few "errors." Ping Fu has become so notorious in Chinese American communities that her name is synonymous with liar. Plug "Ping Fu" and "liar" into Google these days and the combo yields more than 6,300 hits.
Has any one ever heard of some one being kidnapped the first day upon arrival to America, being rescued by policemen but there is no police report? In this book it happened to Ping Fu (pages 5 - 8).
Has any one ever heard of any college teacher to insert fingers to the female students' vaginas to make sure they are not pregnant? Any country, any time? In this book it happened to Ping Fu (page 254).
Has any one ever heard of any one was quartered by 4 horses in last 100 years, anywhere in the world? In this book Ping Fu saw it in China (page 44).
Has any one ever heard that Sylvester Stallone grabbed a girl's rear end in a restaurant? In this book it happened to Ping Fu (page 60).
Excerpts from Ms. Ping Fu's memoir Bend Not Break, page 254 :
[At our school, officials would confirm that all female students were menstruating each month by checking their sanitary napkins. When they discovered that some women were cheating by bringing in their friends' soiled pads, the officials began inserting their fingers directly into our vaginas to check for blood.]
When I read this part I felt disgusted. Beside Ping Fu, I have never read from any one else who talked about college female students were finger checked, not in China, not in the whole world in history. How could she make up a disgusting story like this? It takes a very ugly soul to make up a story like this.
In February, 2013, Ping Fu changed her story, she said they were not official's fingers, but they were female students' own fingers:
[Through a misunderstanding with Ms. Fox, Ms. Fu said this was portrayed as the use of other people's fingers - an invasion of the woman's body.
Ms. Fox "wrote it wrong," she said. "I corrected it three times but it didn't get corrected." Women used their own finger to show blood, she said, but the mistake went into print anyway.
In general, Ms. Fox may have "just made some searches on the Internet that maybe weren't correct," Ms. Fu said.]
In June, 2013, Ping Fu's college classmates at Suzhou University expressed their anger over such non-existing event and humiliating story.
In July, 2013, Ping Fu changed her story again, this time she said finger checking happened to some women who had already given birth to a child, but not to the students at Suzhou University:
[非 法 怀 孕 检 查 只 针 对 已 经 生 育 过 的 妇 女，并 不 是 对 所 有 女 性。书 中 写 的 是 对 所 有 女 性，但 并 不 是 苏 州 大 学 学 生。]
How can any one recommend this book when its author made up disgusting stories, kept changing her stories or blaming her co-author searching the Internet for her stories?
Excerpts from Ms. Ping Fu's memoir Bend Not Break, pages 60-61 :
[Santa Fe was an artistic city, and many Hollywood stars had second homes there. Linda Evans, John Wayne, and Miles Davis all came to our restaurant. I didn't know who any of these people were, so my boss often assigned me to wait on them, knowing that I wouldn't get star struck or ask for autographs.
One night, a large, muscular man with dark hair and an asymmetrical face came into our restaurant. The boss told me to serve him.
I approached the table. "What would you like to drink?" I asked.
The man said nothing, but startled me by reaching around and grabbing my rear end with his enormous right hand. Without hesitating for a second, I slapped him on the cheek, hard. Then I gasped. What had I done? Surely the boss would fire me for such insolent behavior.
The man sat quietly for a heartbeat, staring me straight in the eyes. Then he laughed and said: "Do it again".
I raced back to the kitchen, still convinced, with my Chinese mentality, that I would lose my job. But everyone who had witnessed the event was cheering. "Ping, you slapped Rambo!" they squealed with delight. Even the boss, who had followed me to the back room, was chuckling. The customer, they told me, was Sylvester Stallone, a famous action hero.]
Do you agree this story was fabricated? As far as I know, John Wayne died in 1979, five years before Ping Fu arrived in America. Sylvester Stallone is not "a large, muscular man with dark hair and an asymmetrical face". He does not have "enormous right hand" either. Many other Ping Fu's stories, such as being starved, being deported by China government, being finger checked for pregnancy, being kidnapped the first day upon arrival in America ... , are just as preposterous as this one.
Some classmates of Ms. Ping Fu at Soochow University said she was a smart girl who writes novels well, but please don't claim a novel to be her real life memoir.
Except from pages 148 - 149, Bend Not Break:
[When my colleagues and I had finished making our first piece of metal mirror smooth, I caught sight in it of a perfect reflection of my face. We didn't have mirrors at home or around the dormitory -- Mao's Communism discouraged concern with one's physical appearance. This was the first reflection of myself that I had seen in a mirror in years. I was surprised that I
looked all grown up. I recalled the well in the courtyard of my Shanghai family's home where I had gazed at myself before I was taken away. .... an unfinished child who had transformed into a proud and capable worker as an adult]
When I read this part, I had to stop, I could not stand it. She claimed she was taken away from Shanghai at 8 years old, now she is 18, for 10 years she did not take a look of her own face. Wow!
I don't want to argue that Nanjing is one of the top 10 most prosperous cities in China that it would not be hard to find a mirror outside of home. I don't want to argue that why she couldn't afford a mirror but she had a bike at the same time (back then in China owning a bike is like today in America owning a BMW car, but a small mirror only cost a few cents). I don't want to argue that why she did not take a look of herself when she visited her friend's home...... Just look at the photos in her book. There are three photos which were taken between her 8 to 18 years old. How could she not see her own face for 10 YEARS?!
Many people have already read or heard that Ms. Ping Fu did not go to school from 8 to 18 years old, which is a lie. Here she even did not see her own face for 10 years, but she kept teenager age photos. Do you believe that? I don't.
Some people may like this memoir as it contains a lot of high-minded inspirational talking, as Ping Fu portrayed herself as a victim of cruelty and adversity who showed enormous resilience and survived by sheer means of her humbleness and unbreakable spirit. But the truth is she fabricated these touching stories to gain fame and financial benefit. After reading both of her English and Chinese memoirs, her 4 resumes, and Suzhou (Soochow) University's disclosure of her student registration form (including her own handwritten statement that she joined the Communist Youth League in 1973), it is easy to see there are many contradictions and fabrications . Here is an incomplete list:
- Some stories in this book didn't happen, such as a teacher being quartered by 4 horses. Ping Fu said it was her emotional memory.
- Finger checking on college female students: in this book it was by Suzhou University officials' fingers. In February 2013 Ping Fu blamed her ghostwriter Meimei Fox for getting it wrong, and said what she meant was it was done by the students' own fingers. In July 2013 she admitted that the finger-checking practice didn't happen on college campus.
- In this book (page 255) she completed her college thesis, which embarrassed the Chinese government and she was arrested. In Feb, 2013, Ping Fu admitted she didn't write a college thesis.
- In this book Ping Fu was kidnapped in Albuquerque the first day she arrived in America and was locked up for 3 days. In her Chinese memoir she had a dinner with her first boyfriend Kelly on the third day of arrival to America. Albuquerque Police Department does not have any record related to this kidnapping incident even though it allegedly involved 3 little children.
- In this book she didn't graduate from Suzhou University, but in her resumes which were submitted to the National Science Foundation (NSF, a government agency), she earned a BA or a Master's degree from Suzhou University. (Suzhou University confirmed that she did not graduate).
- In this book Ping Fu was arrested in 1982 and imprisoned for 3 days, after that she was under house arrest and was asked to leave China. But in her resumes, she graduated from Suzhou University, and then worked at the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics as a lecturer from 1982 - 1983.
- In this book Ping Fu's marriage to Dr. Herbert Edelsbrunner was her only marriage, but in February 2013 she admitted to NYT reporter Didi Tatlow that she got green card from her first marriage with Richard Lynn Ewald from 1986 - 1989.
- In this book Ping Fu suffered a lot in China. In her Chinese memoir she had a happy childhood in China, but suffered a lot in America.
- In this book Ping Fu worked in a restaurant in Santa Fe where John Wayne also visited as a customer at that time, but in reality John Wayne died 5 years before Ping Fu came to America in 1984.
- In this book Ping Fu described Sylvester Stallone as "a large, muscular man with dark hair and an asymmetrical face,"who grabbed her rear end with his enormous right hand, but in reality Stallone is not large, he does not have enormous right hand either.
- In this book Ping Fu didn't see herself for 10 years from 8 to 18, but she included photos during that time in the book.
- In this book Ping Fu couldn't afford a mirror for 10 years, but she had a bike at the same time, which was a luxury item at that time.
- In this book Lane Sharman's company was acquired by AT&T, but Mr. Lane Sharman said his company was never acquired by AT&T.
- In this book Ping Fu said she did graduate studies at UNM, but UNM said she only did undergraduate studies there.
Below is what Suzhou University has disclosed:
In June 2013, Soochow (Suzhou) University released Ping Fu's student file, which revealed the the following:
(1) According to Ping Fu's student registration card which she filled in her own handwriting, Ping Fu had a complete middle/high school education. She graduated from Middle School in 1973. She graduated from the Nanjing Guanghuamen High School in July 1976. (Note: In her book Bend Not Break, Ms. Ping Fu wrote that she worked in factory from 8 to 18 years old, never went to school during those 10 years.)
(2) Also according to Ms. Ping Fu's student registration card which she filled in her own handwriting, Ms. Ping Fu joined the Communist Youth League in 1973. (Note: the political ladder at that time in China was: Little Red Soldier, Red Guard, member of the Communist Youth League, member of the Communist Party. But in Ms. Ping Fu's Bend Not Break she wrote that she suffered miserably because she was a "black element." This is like a Nazi soldier claimed she suffered more than Jewish people during Holocaust.)
(3) Still according to Ms. Ping Fu's student registration card which she filled in her own handwriting, Ms. Ping Fu worked in Nanjing Radio Equipment Manufacture only for one year after she graduated from high school.
(4) Ms. Ping Fu took two years of college English and received good grades. (Note: In her book Bend Not Break she wrote she only knew 3 English words when she arrived in America in 1984.)
(5) Ms. Ping Fu was never arrested for any reason while she was at Soochow University.
(6) Ms. Ping Fu withdrew from Soochow University on Mar 16, 1982.
Four of Ping Fu's resumes were obtained by the critics of Ping Fu through FOIA. They were used to apply a job at National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) or taxpayer funded government NSF grants. Every version of her resumes includes her fabricated education credentials or working experience, and they conflict with each other in timing. Here is an incomplete list of the problems of her resumes.
- Ping Fu did not receive any degree from Suzhou University, but she listed BA and MA degrees from Suzhou University in her resumes.
- Her working as lecturer at Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1982 - 1983 could not possibly be true, as NUAA is a semi-military college, and lecturer is a formal title in China which requires at least a Bachelor degree and formal approval process. Since Ping Fu did not graduate from college, it is impossible for her to be a lecturer at the prestigious college NUAA. (In Bend Not Break, she was under house arrest after being released from a jail during that time.)
- From April 1991 - August 1994, Ping Fu was a Visiting Research Programmer at NCSA, and she was not a Senior Research Programmer.
- Ping Fu's Technical Programming Manager position did not start from April, 1991. Actually this title was given to Ping Fu in 1996.
- It is impossible for Ping Fu to work as a Software Consultant at Resource Systems Group in San Diego starting in May 1984. (UNM stated Ping Fu enrolled as a full time student from Jan. 1984 - June 1986. Ping Fu arrived America in Jan. 1984 and enrolled in English as second language program at UNM. But in her resume she started to work in San Diego for Resource Systems Group in May 1984.)
With these four resumes, the timing of Ping Fu's working experience with Resource Systems Group changed as follows:
- In her 1992 resume: from July 1986 - June 1988
- In her 1997 resume: from May 1985 - June 1988
- In her 1999 resume: from May 1984 - June 1988
- In her 1991 resume: Ping Fu was doing TA at UNM, from 1985 - 1986 (she worked in two different states at the same time while on student Visa.)
Ping Fu has 3 versions of her story regarding Suzhou University:
- In Bend Not Break, no degree from Suzhou University was obtained.
- In her 1991 resume, BA from Suzhou University, China in March, 1982.
- In her 1999 resume, MA from Suzhou University, China in March, 1982.
Suzhou University published her school record showing that she withdrew from that school on March 16, 1982 without any degree earned. But in each of her 4 resumes, she put either BA or MA degree. Using falsified resumes to apply for government jobs or grants is not just a lie, it is a crime. Because of the statute of limitation, we tax payers probably could not do anything about her criminal act, but this kind of behavior should be condemned.
There are also a lot of fabrications in Ping Fu's online profiles. It would take a book to list all the contradictions (lies) of her different versions of stories.
If anyone still wants to read this book, read it as a fiction. It is not a memoir.
But I find the lies too many, too blatant, and too intentional in the book. The thing I like America most is people's sense of decency and respect of truth, but I have been saddened and shocked by how close-minded some are on this issue. Most Americans do not know that the Cultural Revolution was totally denounced by Chinese leaders like Deng and people. If you do not hear the condemnation now in China, you may ask if we condemn slavery in America that often. Except her witnessing of the quartering of a female teacher and except her mentioning of the period police at Suzhou University, the bad things she wrote about were nothing unheard of either in China or elsewhere. The question is if those things happened to her. The fact that the CR is bad does not lend itself to the credibility of Ping's book. They are different issues. If you feel sorry for her misfortunes, such as lower living standard, fearful political atmosphere, and poor education, it is important to know that she was at least more privileged than 99% of her contemporaries. Do you feel sorry for your grandparents because they did not have an I-phone when they were teenagers?
I am confident that the truth will be accepted before long, and believe that Ping Fu will acknowledge her misinformation. I still do not know why I do not think she is a bad person, although dishonesty is the biggest no-no for me. If you do not trust what I write, I suppose most will trust what President Lincoln said, "You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time."
It's also funny that the second picture in this webpage [...] shows that she herself was a member of Mao's Red Guard. She must have had a good time during China's Cultural Revolution and the got into a university due to her "good" performance within the Red Guard.