THE DRAGON'S PEARL by Sirin Phathanothai


Email this review


 An unusual and often absorbing memoir of China and its leaders by a woman who, in 1956 when she was eight, was sent there with her older brother to serve as a ``bridge'' between two ostensibly hostile nations--her adopted country and her native Thailand. After a slow start that details the history of her father, a powerful Thai politician, Phathanothai conveys the shock of China's privations to her privileged self, recalls the restrictions of life as a protected ``special guest,'' and tells much about Zhou Enlai, a friend of her father's. In the beginning of her third year, her pro-China father was arrested by the US-leaning Thai leadership. Now ``one of the Chinese people's children,'' in Zhou's words, she joined in the labors of the Great Leap Forward and gained entrÇe to the homes of the elite, learning the difference between Zhou's public and private words and hearing Mao's explanation that Communism was but one theory China had to try. Though she saw her recently freed father in 1967, the author's happiness was short- lived: China, in the throes of the Cultural Revolution, denounced him and expelled her brother. Given ten minutes to decide, and unwilling to ``abandon the people who had taken [her] in,'' Sirin chose to stay and mouth denunciations of her brother and father. She then went into hiding in the countryside under an assumed name, worked in a Beijing textile factory, and finally left China in 1970 with her English fiancÇ. Phathanothai now lives in Paris with her second husband, the Dutch ambassador. Co-author Peck directs the US-China Book Publications Project at Yale University Press. With such strong affection for China and sympathy for its leaders, Phathanothai can't bring herself to condemn the Tiananmen Square massacre. Less excusable is her sketchy description of her reconciliation with her father and brother, who both apparently bore her little ill will. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-671-79546-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1994


NonfictionIDEAL ILLUSIONS by James Peck
by James Peck
NonfictionTHE CHOMSKY READER by James Peck
by Noam Chomsky