MY FIRST REVOLUTION
MY FIRST REVOLUTION
“A jewel of a memoir, with diamond-sharp impressions of China’s revolution and upper-class America in the forties. Knowlton’s acuity as a political and social observer is matched by his honesty as a writer.”
— Nicholas Platt, President, Asia Society
“Few seventeen-year-olds have the chance to stand at the cusp of history, but Knowlton belongs to this select group. In this memoir of traveling through China in the summer of 1948, Knowlton brings a youthful eye tempered by maturity to a tumultuous period in China’s history.
“Having graduated from a prestigious prep school, Knowlton and his roommate, Jim [Thomson], embark upon a year-long trip around the world before attending Harvard and Yale, respectively, in the fall of 1949. The majority of their journey takes place in China, where the boys’ travels from Nanking to Shanghai and into western China are soon followed by Mao Zedong’s communist forces seeking to wrest control of China away from the Nationalists. Knowlton skillfully interweaves his observations as a young and often lonely American boy in a strange country with his perspective gained over the decades until his present writing. While China and the American expatriates the young Knowlton meets often awe him, the older Knowlton is aware that the China of his memory is a lost dream.
“This book is also fascinating for Knowlton’s keen sense of the American family in the late 1940s, which contrasts dramatically with the chaos in China…Part personal catharsis, part memoir, this book is an extraordinary comparison of life on two sides of the world in 1948.”
“This impeccable memoir recreates the world a bright seventeen-year-old sees — and this particular teenager is witness to an earth-shattering revolution in China. An elegant coming-of-age story, the book provides a dramatic, ground-level view of China as it changed radically half a century ago.”
— Adam Smith, producer/director of the PBS documentary: Adam Smith: China Crossroads
“There is almost a Mark Twain flavor to this adventure of two youngsters roaming around China following World War II. The story also provides keen perceptions of Asia during that tumultuous period.”
— Stanley Karnow, author of Vietnam: A History and chief correspondent for the PBS series Vietnam: A Television History
“Knowlton’s youthful encounter with the Chinese Civil War is the centerpiece of…his wanderjahr with his school chum, the incomparable Jim Thomson…wonderfully recalls a China long lost…set in what now seems like a glamorous, more romantic era…My First Revolution is a rare gem.”
— Peter Rand, author of China Hands: The Adventures and Ordeals of American Journalists Who Joined Forces with the Great Chinese Revolution
Winthrop Knowlton has been a U.S. Treasury official, President of Harper & Row Publishers and the New York City Ballet, and a professor at the Kennedy School at Harvard University. He is now a money manager who lives and works in New York City.
EastBridge Signature Books 2001 156 pp. photos
ISBN 1-891936-00-x (pb) $29.95