Rittenberg, the only American citizen to join Mao Zedong's Chinese Communist Party, befriended Zhou Enlai, debated with Mao and was influential in the '60s Cultural Revolution. Born in South Carolina, this former U.S. labor organizer had his faith in Mao's "sacred revolutionary organization" tested by 16 years in Chinese prisons. His first jail term (1949-1955), after he was wrongly accused of spying, only strengthened Rittenberg's resolve to prove himself a loyal communist. Released, he took a job scrutinizing co-workers' dossiers, sending suspected counter-revolutionaries to labor camps. His next 10 years (1968-1977) in solitary confinement broke his faith in communism. Coauthored with Wall Street Journal reporter Bennett, this robust, often exasperating political autobiography affords close-ups of recent Chinese history as it was made. Rittenberg, who emigrated to the U.S. in 1980 with his second Chinese wife, now views Mao as a "brilliant, talented tyrant" and a "tragic figure," but he remains proud of what he views as the revolution's accomplishments and his role in it. Photos. Author tour.