Vol. 10


A Father’s Legacy

c. 1975; Chongqing, China

This story told by my father is about his legacy to me.


The first time I was called “crazy” was when I was eleven. Well, actually, I had been called “crazy” many, many times before, but this time I didn’t understand why.

“Why?” It was a question I asked everyone I met and anyone I knew. I desired answers. Under Communist rule in China, knowledge and books were closely restricted by order of the government. And owning those “dangerous,” “mind-washing” books was illegal.

However, little did the government know that there were hundreds of thin, yellow-stained pages — all forbidden handwritten books and essays — in a secret room in the attic of my uncle’s house. I guess you could say the “intolerance of rules” runs through the family.

Every month I raced upstairs to that wonderful oasis and devoured book after book. Much to the dismay of the government, ideas and ambitions started developing. I dreamed of escaping China and going to America, a world of prosperity. I dreamed of helping others discover themselves and the world.

I could express myself. I had an unbreakable spirit. My life wasn’t under anyone’s control but my own. As I read about the life of Anne Frank, or the peaceful revolutions that Mahatma Gandhi led, or the successes of Alexander the Great, or the everlasting energy of Winston Churchill, I realized I have a strength in me. I learned about the beauties of nature, and appreciated life more than ever before. I learned that I could knock down barriers and restrictions, and finally . . . I could soar, freely, with my new wings.

Now, me being called “crazy” isn’t something that you would ponder too much. I was always bursting with knowledge, sharing illegal fables from Aesop or facts from the Renaissance. This particular time, I decided to share a story of Napoleon.

I remember the last traces of winter had faded away, and spring was slowly creeping upon us. Boys raced across the schoolyard’s lush meadows that were bathed in brilliant golden sunlight and smelled of the sweet fragrance of blossoming poppies.

“Did you know that Napoleon was barely twenty years old when he became a general?” I enthusiastically said.

“Who is this Napoleon?”

“Is he from the West?”

“Ha, that’s impossible.”

“You’re crazy. You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.”

Such positive feedback, and what a crowd-pleaser.

Looking back, I realize that at age eleven I wasn’t “crazy” or “a trouble-maker” or “an insane boy who deserves to be sent to a military camp.” Those were the comments I often heard. Instead, I was learned. Now I know that those stolen minutes in the dim library — the hidden crumpled pages — helped me become who I really am. And to leave a mark on this world — for the better.

Lauren Liu, daughter of narrator; New Jersey, USA


This copyrighted story may be copied for limited classroom use or reprinted in an article about The Grannie Annie.


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