Growing up in Guangzhou, China, in the 1950s and 1960s, Maria Yee dreamed of being a physicist. At the same time, her father, a professor of architecture, inspired in her a lifelong interest in design. But when China’s Cultural Revolution scattered Maria’s family across prisons, mines, and farms and sent her to labor in a rock quarry, neither physics nor design seemed to be in her future. She eventually wound up working in a machinery factory while studying mechanical engineering at night...

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