China's Son

Chen, Da

Published by Laurel Leaf Books, 2004
ISBN 10: 044022926X / ISBN 13: 9780440229261
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Synopsis: 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

Review: Born in 1962 in southern China, Da Chen had monumental hurdles to overcome before he could even walk or talk. Mao Tse-tung's Cultural Revolution was in full swing, and the descendents of landlords, who were despised, were routinely stripped of their wealth, beaten, humiliated, and sent off to labor camps. Da Chen, the grandson of a landlord, lives several parallel lives: he excels in school but then gives up studying in the face of unbearable pressure and harassment from teachers, students, and administrators. He is a self-taught musician but also a member of a gang of toughs. His siblings, banned from school, work from before sunrise to sunset in the muddy, backbreaking rice fields. But eventually all the dichotomies in Da's life come together, and he makes a break for a new life, with higher education as his foundation for future success.

Da Chen's engrossing memoir, adapted for younger readers from his book Colors of the Mountain, paints a colorful, painful, sometimes humorous picture of life during the 1960s and '70s, when formerly privileged Chinese families were at the mercy of Chairman Mao and his ruthless Red Guard soldiers. The writing is at times jerky, other times poetic, and Da Chen's time frame can be confusing. However, this is a book young readers will not soon forget, especially if it's their first glimpse of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. (Ages 12 and older) --Emilie Coulter

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Title: China's Son
Publisher: Laurel Leaf Books
Publication Date: 2004
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
Book Condition: Very Good -

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