A disagreeable but informative account of one woman's growing up in Maoist China. From an early age Luo wanted nothing so much as to become a scientist, but though she was the brightest girl in her class, Communist Party mavens did not foresee the same future for her. It was the time of the Cultural Revolution in China, and intellectuals were being sent by the millions to work in factories or on farms. Instead of the rigorous, formal education Luo longed for, she was sent to a machine shop. The daughter of wrong-thinking intellectuals who were harassed and persecuted, she nevertheless remained determined and taught herself what she wanted to know. Although she became the best and speediest worker in the shop, she was ostracized by most of her fellow workers and discriminated against by her supervisors. Her father, a dissident socialist economist, had tried to escape to Hong Kong but was turned in by relatives and beaten by Red Guards. Became he was in poor health, he was later permitted to live under house arrest, but her mother, a journalist, was sent away to a labor camp (where she later died). Eventually, Luo managed to get a scholarship to Princeton and fulfilled her dreams: she is now a science teacher at Cal Tech. Luo tells her story in the form of letters, over a period of several weeks, to a professor-friend whom she believes to be on the verge of suicide. She hopes that a recitation of her own depressions, frustrations, and successful struggles will persuade him to forbear and take courage. With what seems almost total recall, she describes in detail her day-to-day life in school and at the factory, and sketches in her family life as well, all of it strange and fascinating to a western reader with different values. Often, Luo comes across as self-righteous, arrogant, snobbish, smug, and pious, and despite sympathy for her travails, it's difficult to become fully sympathetic with her. But for China watchers of all political persuasions, this is an enlightening and valuable document, providing new insights into a disturbing history.