As Lisa Bu adjusted to a new life in the United States, she turned to books to grow her mind and build a new path for herself. She shared her unique experience during a TED Talk in the year 2013 on reading and how books played the magic in her life.
Bu was born and raised in Hunan, China, where she was first trained to be a gymnast in the 1970s, and when she was in first grade the government wanted her to transfer to an athlete school when her mother said ‘no’. Her parents wished her to become an engineer, like them, because after surviving the cultural revolution they firmly believed that one sure way of happiness is a safe and well-paid job.
But her dream was to become a Chinese opera singer. “So, I tried everything I could to go to Opera school.” She even wrote to the school principal and the host of a radio show but no one liked the idea.
“I was afraid that for the rest of my life, some second-class happiness would be the best that I could hope for,” she said. Thinking it was unfair she thought to give another chance to her dreams. She turned her interest completely into books because there was nobody around her to teach.
Bu found her role model in an independent woman from the book Jane Eyre. She was also inspired to learn abroad after reading the books, ‘The Complete Works of Sanmao’ and ‘Lessons from History‘ by Nan Huaijin.
Then she came to the United States in 1995 and started reading books that were banned in China. From reading different books, she learned about lessons of life. The word ‘honour’ created an insight to restart her relationship with her parents.
“Encountering a new culture also started my habit of comparative reading,” said Bu.
She adopted different ways of reading books, started to read in pairs, compared the same stories in different genres or similar stories from a different culture. “If you know a foreign language it is fun to read your book in two languages.”
“Books have given me a magic portal to connect with people of the past and the present, I shall never feel lonely or powerless again,” she said.