Dr. Tom Kando tells a tale that is at times disquieting, but one that is always entertaining, and ultimately inspiring…and it is a story that is more fact than fiction. As is often done by any good author, he does take some literary license, as revealed by the 9 “fibs” identified in the preface; nonetheless, the bulk of the story is an honest portrayal of his life and times, of challenges met and obstacles overcome. Born in war torn Europe, Tom’s early life was one of privation and hardship, but this did not stop him from pursuing his love for learning nor his desire to study in the United States. Eventually, through grit, persistence, and a bit of luck he follows a harrowing, sometimes rowdy and always challenging path that ultimately leads to a Ph.D. and a career in academia. Having been branded a refugee from childhood, he also realizes the dream of becoming a citizen of his adopted country.
Tom is not afraid to explore important cultural themes through the microscope of his own personal experience. Sexuality, racism, jingoism, politics, marriage, patriotism, and religion are all touched upon. Nor is Tom afraid to expose the dark-side of academia, revealing that the halls of the academia are often more hollow than hallowed. Some of the incidents and encounters are filled with pathos, many with a touch of humor, but all are subtle lessons.
Throughout the book, the professor shines through in the form of snippets of insight and wisdom. For example, in explaining why people immigrate to the United States, he has this say:
"…it was an escape from the cobwebs of cultures that hold onto subtle and not so subtle forms of traditional hierarchy, discrimination and disrespect, cultures which demand conformity and can be oppressive to the free-spirit, to the ambitious, to the individualist…. For such people, America is the promised-land because, to a large extent, America was created by such people. America is especially attractive to people with initiative, people who don’t fit the mold, people who don’t belong, in one word - individualists."
In those few words he captures the essence of traditional “American” society, and sets the stage for later social psychological discussions that are cleverly intertwined within the storyline.
This is a delightful, gripping, and insightful book. It captures your interest in the first few paragraphs and holds your attention to the very last. In the end, it leaves you feeling privileged to have had a no-holds-barred look into the life and times of a most interesting and courageous individual, and it reminds you that no matter how tumultuous the present there is always hope for a better future.
Just a guy who likes to write and draw, and enjoy a good book.
(reviewed 8 days after purchase)