[This review was published in the November 1983 issue of Universitas, the national publication of University Professors for Academic Order.]  

 

Book Review

 

Son of the Revolution

Liang Heng and Judith Shapiro

Alfred A. Knopf, 1983

 

Reviewed by Dwight D. Murphey

 

            I did not read Son of the Revolution with, at first, the intention of writing a review of it; but it is so striking a book in the human sense and so specifically informative about conditions within China during the past quarter of a century that I have been moved to bring it more or less urgently to the attention of my conservative colleagues.

            The book is the autobiographical narrative of Liang Heng, who was born in the interior Chinese city of Changsha in 1954.  From the first days of his attendance at a child-care center in which the stress was upon Socialist thought and he was scolded that “you are not Chairman Mao’s good little boy, you haven’t upheld revolutionary discipline,” the story tells in warm and personal terms the agonies and occasional joys of life within a totalitarian system.

            Liang’s mother made three innocuous criticisms of her superiors during the “Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom” movement of 1956-57.  This resulted in a black mark against the family that led Liang’s father to divorce his mother and to continuing persecutions during the years that followed.  While the narrative is not overtold, it brings home as nothing else can the specific meaning of the omnipresent pressures of totalitarian life as they affected Liang, his family, and the people of China.

            After the death of Mao and the return of Deng Xiao-ping to power, Liang, who had become a basketball player for the factory at which he worked, became a student at Hunan Teachers’ College, where he met, fell in love with, and married a visiting American teacher, Judith Shapiro.  The two of them now live in New York City where Liang is working on his doctorate at Columbia.

            The book evinces a great love for China and its people, but it also expresses deep forebodings, even about the present regime under which the ubiquitous indoctrination and propaganda continue as before.