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China's Son


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About the Author

Da Chen is a graduate of Columbia University Law School.


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. (June) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Gr 7 Up-China's Son is a retelling for young readers of Da Chen's memoir, Colors of the Mountain (Random, 2000), a book easily accessible to older middle and high school students without adaptation. During the Cultural Revolution, even people living in remote villages like Yellow Stone in southern China felt its effects. The author grew up in this small village, and because his grandfather was a landlord, his family was persecuted. Though he was a bright boy and remained in school for most of this period, he was mistreated by students and teachers alike. He eventually began hanging around with a gang of young gamblers and soon abandoned his lessons altogether though he continued to attend school. The Cultural Revolution ran its course, and college became an option. At this point, Da Chen realized how limited his future would be without an education, but by now, he was woefully behind his classmates. He and his older brother began a rigorous course of study to prepare for college entrance exams. Da Chen's admission to Beijing First Foreign Language Institute is the culmination of a powerful but dry coming-of-age story about a young man struggling to figure out just who he is in a society whose very structure is undergoing massive change. China's Son joins Ji-Li Jiang's Red Scarf Girl (HarperCollins, 1997) and Song Nan Zhang's A Little Tiger in the Chinese Night (Tundra, 1993) as part of a growing body of literature about children living during this difficult period of Chinese history.-Barbara Scotto, Michael Driscoll School, Brookline, MA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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