Reviewer: Truong Buu Lam: Dr. Lam earned his Doctorate in History from the Université Catholique de Louvain, in Belgium many years ago. He has since taught history of Southeast Asia at several Colleges and Universities in Vietnam and the USA. He has authored a few works on Vietnamese history. He is now retired and the last affiliation was the University of Hawaii.
Karen Boutilier Kendall
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc.
The last sentence of this books reads as follows:
Although my childhood was different from many kids and difficult in many ways, the Creator compensated me with wonderful, unique opportunities, a loving expansive family, and fascinating adventures.
This is an understatement. The memory of a short span of life that Karen Kendall shares with her readers in this work bespeaks of a marvelous convergence of circumstances which transformed her into an unprecedentedly lucky teenager. Truly, who can boast, at a very young age, about sharing a house with the Farmers Workers whose strikes and other union activities have soured our grapes for years or even decades back in the 1960s. Who can, in a kindergarten class, object to the teacher’s advice that police officers are our friends by raising her hand to ask: “ If so, then, why did they beat up my father last night?” Again, what 10 year old child would be able to effectively organize a strike against a teacher who unfairly treated a student for his race. Finally who, at the age of thirteen, was selected to join a delegation of women led by no other than Shirley McLane to visit China. This happened in 1973, a mere two years after Nixon’s trip itself which triggered the thawing of relations between the US and China frozen almost for half a century.
Between the mentioned outburst in kindergarten and the visit to China, took place an interminable series of activities and happenings, all related to the work of her father as a preacher doubled with that of a social activist. The author narrates all with an equal mood, without overemphasizing the righteousness of the cause of the strikers nor condemning unjustly the repressive excesses of the authorities. She recalls and recounts with great detail every event as if she had kept written notes of them all. The observations she registered while visiting China were candid, direct; at times fresh and naïve; at other times, extremely mature for a thirteen years old girl. Some remarks she made suggest the gap in information, or rather misinformation, about a world divided by years of cold war. It is highly enlightening yet entertaining to compare what she recalled of China of that time with what we know of China today.
The book evokes a world we know well. It, however, fulfils its purpose of reminding us that the fight for social justice never ends and that countries follow the destiny designed by their own people no matter what others think of them.