41 of 51 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Am I inclined to believe that all foreign born or educated defense scientists (e.g., Tsien and J.R. Oppenheimer) should be presumed "seriously suspect until proven innocent"? If so, to me Chang's book would no doubt leave open the issue whether Tsien had had a Communist leaning, while he was an immigrant in the US from a Nationalist China -- before and during a 'sky rocketting' career which culminated in his roles as JPL Director/Co-Founder; MIT/CalTech full professors; American aerospace pioneer; and a top Pentagon consultant, who grilled Werner von Braun in Germany to write for the US government its report on German aeronautics/rochetry state of the art.
To answer my own question, fortunately, I am not -- at least not consciously. So, let me justify my rating.
Poignantly told with facts organized like an epic novel, Chang's story is the saga of a gifted and industrious "orphan" from endless wars and feudal corruption in China who came to Uncle Sam's neighborhood for schooling, then contributed greatly to Sam's household, but was spurned from it by house stewards for allegedly associating with "people who condone thievery"; who then continued to work hard to be useful to people who appreciated him (as his ambition had always been) in a new career which he again excelled in, after, in the only remaining option he saw, being taken in by a delighted relative Uncle Mao.
As aristocratically brilliant, and yet democratically helpful to students/colleagues he saw as diligent, "why did he embrace the wicked Uncle -- of the proletariat masses of his kins?" you might ask.
'Cuz back in Uncle Sam's household, someone made him learn the lesson "You can't fight City Hall and expect to win." How about a harder question, from someone who has actually lived under a Fascist or Communist government?
One minor warning, though: Perhaps due to her bilingual upbringing, Chang's sentences are sometimes a bit long and not as colloquial as an impatient American reader might expect of a good novel. I won't throw rocks in my own glass house; so, to me, this quirk does not detract from the book in the slightest. Bear with her through limited technical discussions, and enjoy!
Remember Pygmalion in Greek mythology? A king could love the statue of a female figure so much that she came to life, to fall in love with him? If Tsien was innocent of the charge against him in the 50's America (you be the judge after reading Chang's book), isn't Tsien's "second life" as the leader of the successful Chinese ICBM project a modern-day antithesis of Pygmalion. Only this is not a mythical story, but real events which someday (with a chance however remote) may end disastrously for people on both shores of the Northern Pacific!
As Chang told us, the decent and kind, President Carter in the 80's by executive decree rescinded the INS order of the 50's for deporting Tsien (in essence saying, "Oops, we made a mistake.") Tsien however is still waiting for someone in the US government to give a forthright official apology for having ungraciously kicked him out while he was a guest in Uncle Sam's house, as he said so essentially (leaving it for others to remember his extraordinary contributions). Before then, he would not accept CalTech's invitation to come to California for awards of "Distinguished Teacher" and "Distinguished Alumnus."
Do most Americans who have read this book think the Communist charge against Tsien unwarranted (as President Carter must have, by his rescission decree)? If so, is it consistent with America's ideal of decency for some interested/concerned Americans to seek to make peace for their country with an aging ex-friend whom it turned enemy, and is it consistent with the US interest, in so doing, to disarm or merely soften whatever hostility toward USA his work may have bequeathed to his students and associates in China?
Whether these issues can be resolved positively with effective actions, before Tsien's death (in the challenging backdrop of the Cox Report) will determine if the American and Chinese saga of Tsien Shue-sen will come to a happier ending, or will forever remain a most poignant tragedy in the modern history of Science and Politics.
Many thanks, Iris, for helping us understand.