A Triumphant Tale of a Blind Immigrant


Julie Lip-Williams is a fitting sequel to The Spiritual Blessings of Country Music and to Steve Earle’s fierce determination to educate autistic children. His alarming words have far reaching implications that continue to trouble me.

“The cure to cancer could be locked up inside one of these kids.”

Julie’s story is a surprising account of unlocking—a stunning reminder of the beautiful potential that God plants inside his image bearers and the good that ripples out when those gifts are unlocked, nurtured, and enabled to flourish.

From birth, the odds were hopelessly stacked against her. It wasn’t just the culture’s inclination to discard her, which alone would have proven devastating. Her own family posed a threat far more serious than being marginalized or denied opportunity.

Her story began, as do the stories of countless baby girls throughout history and into the present, when those closest to her sought a way to end her life. Her story ended at the young age of forty-two with the best modern medical science has to offer and teams of skilled medical professionals fighting desperately to keep her alive.

Julie Lip-Williams’g memoir, The Unwinding of the Miracle: a Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything that Comes After, is fittingly described in The NYTimes Book Review as “a triumphant tale of a blind immigrant.”

Born poor and blind to Chinese parents in postwar Vietnam, she was sentenced to death by her paternal grandmother, who believed that her disability would bring shame to the family and render her an unmarriageable burden. But when her parents brought her to an herbalist and asked him to euthanize her, he refused. . . . She would go on to defy her family’s expectations, eventually graduating from Harvard Law School, traveling the world solo and working at a prestigious law firm where she meets Josh, the love of her life. She becomes a mother and, soon after a cancer patient, and soon after that, because of this unfortunate circumstance, a magnificent writer.

—Lori Gottlieb’s NYTimes review, “Swan Song: A dying young women’s remarkable exhortation to the living”

Even after Julie’s death, her gifts continue to bless—bringing solace and courage to others engaged in overwhelming battles. Many will marvel, as I do, at her clarity of vision in perceiving God’s hand at work in her story. Her blog—My Cancer Fighting Journey—is a powerful preview of her memoir.

She is one more reason for us to ask ourselves again how we are stewarding, affirming, and fueling God’s good gifts both inside and outside the church. What possibilities do we imagine when someone new shows up? What possibilities are we overlooking? Who matters and who doesn’t? It is it our place to decide? Or can we, should we, learn to see others with the eyes of expectation and the belief that they arrive bearing gifts?

We still don’t have the cure to cancer or many other problems the world is facing. And new possibilities for discovery and advances await. May God give us eyes to see potential all around us and to open doors and witness the unfolding of God’s goodness through the giftedness of others.

About carolyncustisjames

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1 Response to A Triumphant Tale of a Blind Immigrant

  1. Pete Ahlstrom says:

    I’m asking our library to buy this one!


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