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The Unwinding of the Miracle

A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After

By Julie Yip-Williams
15-minute read
Audio available
The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After by Julie Yip-Williams

As a blind child, Julie Yip-Williams escaped from the poverty of war-torn Vietnam to the peaceful abundance of Los Angeles. For most people, this would have been their life’s most remarkable event – but Julie wasn’t destined for a normal life. In her candid memoir, The Unwinding of the Miracle (2019), Julie takes us on an extraordinary journey through her equally extraordinary time on Earth – from her birth and blindness to her world travels and battle with terminal cancer.

  • Cancer patients feeling alone in their fight
  • Compassionate souls who want to feel another person’s pain
  • Anybody wanting to be told an uncanny tale 

Julie Yip-Williams was born Diep Ly Thanh in Vietnam and emigrated to the US with her family as a child. She went on to study at Harvard Law School and became a lawyer based in New York City. After being diagnosed with colon cancer, Julie began writing about her battle with her illness and her wider life on an online blog, gathering a large following. She died in 2018.

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The Unwinding of the Miracle

A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After

By Julie Yip-Williams
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After by Julie Yip-Williams
Synopsis

As a blind child, Julie Yip-Williams escaped from the poverty of war-torn Vietnam to the peaceful abundance of Los Angeles. For most people, this would have been their life’s most remarkable event – but Julie wasn’t destined for a normal life. In her candid memoir, The Unwinding of the Miracle (2019), Julie takes us on an extraordinary journey through her equally extraordinary time on Earth – from her birth and blindness to her world travels and battle with terminal cancer.

Key idea 1 of 9

Because Julie Yip-Williams was born blind, her grandmother tried to have her killed.

Julie Yip-Williams was born into a tumultuous world marked by deep upheaval. The Cold War was raging, and her native Vietnam was the center of its deadliest proxy war. 

Living in southern Vietnam, Julie’s ethnically Chinese family ended up on the losing side of Vietnam’s civil war. As the violence escalated, they fled from their home in Tam Ky to hide out in the southern capital of Saigon. 

When Saigon fell to the northern communist forces in 1975, the war ended. Julie’s family returned to Tam Ky. Eight months later, on January 6, 1976, Diep Ly Thanh was born. She’d later be known by her Americanized, married name: Julie Yip-Williams.

But things weren’t right with baby Julie.

At four weeks old, she was first held by her grandmother – a powerful, domineering woman who demanded authority and instilled fear. Eyes narrowing, her grandmother noticed an unusual whiteness in Julie’s pupils. She waved a hand over Julie’s face – but the baby’s eyes didn’t follow the movement. Julie had congenital cataracts, and she was blind.

Summoning Julie’s parents, the grandmother launched into a fierce tirade. Julie would have a miserable and wretched life, unmarriable and unable to care for herself. She wouldn’t contribute anything to the family, financially or domestically, and after their death, she’d have to beg on the streets. And what about the family’s reputation? Gossip would spread that the family was cursed. There was only one sensible decision: give her a potion, which would make her sleep forever.

For three weeks, Julie’s grandmother kept up these verbal assaults. Eventually, bowing to her tenacity and authority, Julie’s parents caved in. 

On a bus to Da Nang to visit an herbalist recommended by the grandmother, Julie’s mother clutched her infant tight and sobbed bitterly. Why did she have to do this? Julie was her beautiful baby; this was wrong.

Her parents entered the herbalist’s house and mumbled their request, eyes fixed on the floor. The herbalist recoiled. He didn’t believe in infanticide – there was no way he would cooperate. Suddenly, Julie’s mother sprang up. She burst into tears, hugged the herbalist and kept repeating, “Thank you; thank you.” She couldn’t contain her joy. 

Upon their return, Julie’s great-grandmother found out about the attempted infanticide. Outraged, she declared that Julie was not to be harmed, proclaiming, “How she was born is how she will be.” As the ultimate matriarch of the family, the great-grandmother’s word was final. Julie was to live.

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