A candid memoir of growing up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution that is sure to inspire.
Da Chen grew up as an outcast in Communist China. His family’s legacy had been one of privilege prior to the revolution, but now in the Chairman Mao era, they are treated with scorn. For Da Chen, that means that all of his successes and academic achievements are nullified when one teacher tells him that, because of his “family’s crimes,” he can never be more than a poor farmer. Feeling his fate is hopeless, Da responds by dropping out.
Da’s life takes a dark turn, and he soon begins hanging out with a gang. However, all is not lost. After Chairman Mao’s death, Da realizes that an education and college might be possible. He begins to study–all day and into the night. His entire family rallies to help him succeed, working long hours in the rice fields and going into debt to ensure that Da has an education.
Their struggle would not be in vain. When the final exam results are posted, Da has one of the highest scores in the region, earning him a place at the prestigious Beijing University and a future free from the scars of his past.
This inspiring memoir, adapted for young readers from Colors of the Mountain, is one that will rally readers to defy the odds.
Praise for China’s Son
“Humor and unflinching honesty inform the narrative, which is shot through with lyrical descriptions.”—Publishers Weekly
“Da Chen’s narrative moves smoothly, communicating setting and character with an immediacy that will draw young readers in.”—Kirkus Reviews
Adapted for young adults from Chen's memoir (Colors of the Mountain), this coming-of-age tale traces the author's boyhood in Maoist China. Born in 1962, Chen grows up in privation and humiliation as the grandson of former landlords. His family has been stripped of property and is cruelly treated by fellow villagers and politicos. Chen's siblings must quit school to become farmers, his father is fired from his teaching job and repeatedly hauled off to labor camp, and his grandfather is publicly beaten. Chen's only recourse is to excel at his studies ("I shone, despite their efforts to snuff me out"). The pacing here lurches a bit; what may have worked well for adult audiences could throw younger readers. However, humor and unflinching honesty inform the narrative, which is shot through with lyrical descriptions ("my fate stood undecided, wavering in the wind like a blade of grass along the Dong Jing River"). Some of the most involving scenes revolve around the boy's gradual inclusion in a Huck Finn esque gang that cares little about his privileged background. Young adults interested in this area of history may wish to read Ji-li Jiang's recent Red Scarf Girl, which chronicles her adolescence at the time Mao was taking power. Chen's reminiscences add another intriguing perspective on this turbulent time. Ages 12-up.