by Shannon B., May 25, 2005 12:38 PM
Frances Wood was one of few Westerners lucky enough to study abroad in China during the Cultural Revolution. She caught the country in a transitional period. China was slowly beginning to open its doors to the rest of the world; Mao was just about to pass away; and soon a generation would remember the Revolution as The Ten Disastrous Years. Hand-Grenade Practice is based on her letters home. Her memoirs describe experiences both comical and strange. These are her struggles with frozen underwear, faulty bicycles, and rewritten history lessons. She has an amusing way of writing about the simple tasks of daily life confounded by a society in flux. We sense, too, the darkness of these days. "I only began to discover what was happening to China's intellectuals when I got back home," she writes.