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China's Son: Growing Up in the Cultural Revolution

China's Son: Growing Up in the Cultural Revolution

3.8 16
by Da Chen

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A candid memoir about growing up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, adapted by the author from his Colors of the Mountain, published by Random House.

Da Chen was born in China in 1962. The grandson of a landlord, he and his family were treated as outcasts in Communist China. In school, Da was an excellent student until a teacher told him that, because of


A candid memoir about growing up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, adapted by the author from his Colors of the Mountain, published by Random House.

Da Chen was born in China in 1962. The grandson of a landlord, he and his family were treated as outcasts in Communist China. In school, Da was an excellent student until a teacher told him that, because of his “family’s crimes,” he could never be more than a poor farmer. Feeling his fate was hopeless, Da responded by dropping out and hanging around with a gang. However, after Mao’s death, Da realized that an education and college might be possible, but he had to make up for the time he’d wasted. He began to study–all day and into the night. His entire family rallied to help him succeed, working long hours in the rice fields and going into debt to ensure that Da would have an education. When the final exam results were posted, he had one of the highest scores in the region and had earned a place at the prestigious Beijing University. Now his family’s past would not harm their future.

From the Hardcover edition.

Author Biography: Da Chen is a graduate of Columbia University Law School.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Adapted from his adult memoir, Colors of the Mountain, this coming-of-age tale traces the author's boyhood in Maoist China as his family is stripped of property and cruelly treated. "Humor and unflinching honesty inform the narrative," wrote PW. Ages 12-up. (July) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Like Adeline Yen Mah's Falling Leaves (John Wiley & Sons, 1998/VOYA April 1999), Chen's autobiography, Colors of the Mountain (Random House, 2000), has been adapted here for teen readers, but with less success than Mah's work. Chen grew up during the Cultural Revolution as the child of a former landlord. While his father frequently was away at work camps, the good student Chen was ignored by teachers, bullied by classmates, and eventually dropped out of school to join a gang. When Mao Zedong died in 1976, the Cultural Revolution also died, and with the announcement of national exams, attending university again became possible for Chen. Unfortunately, he was now four years behind his classmates and needed to cram to catch up. He did so successfully, eventually being accepted into one of the leading English language programs in the country. The abridgement from Colors of the Mountain is choppy, with quick leaps ahead in time, suddenly formed friendships, and little context within the narrative to explain why Chen's family was so hated. Characters are developed poorly, seeming like caricatures—Chen's hooligan friends, although likeable, seem pat. These problems also were present in the full work, but to a much lesser effect—the story itself flowed rivetingly. Libraries with Asian patrons would be well advised to purchase Colors of the Mountain instead. Teens not interested in reading Chen's longer work would be better served by Ji-Li Jiang's Red Scarf Girl (HarperCollins, 1997/VOYA June 1998) or Red China Blues (Doubleday/Anchor Books, 1996) by Jan Wong. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M J S (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, Delacorte, 213p, $15.95. Ages 11 to 18. Reviewer: Kendall Diane Brothers
Da Chen's beautiful memoir of his life growing up in communist China is a moving account of a young man's struggle to succeed. Adapted from Colors of the Mountains for a younger audience, this book has an easy flow and an inspirational theme. Chen was raised during Mao Tse-tung's Cultural Revolution and as a result Chen and his family were forced to face many difficulties. Because the family was descended from landlords they suffered abuse such as poverty (their lands were taken), public scorn, and their father (a former teacher) being sent off to labor camps. Going to school became such a trial for the young boy that he sought solace with some thugs who respected him and treated him as an equal. Eventually Da, with encouragement and sacrifices from his family, got back into the life of a serious student. Da and his brother studied hard, and the reward for Da was admission to Beijing First Foreign Language Institute. Chen's language is beautiful and his story is often sparked with humor. He does not dwell on victimization or suffering so much as his determination and the love of his family. His courage and the tenacity shown by all of his family is something to be admired. It might be hard for many YAs in America to realize that education is not just a gift but also something worth fighting for and something that can also open doors for you. In reading Da Chen's account they will have a better picture of how attitude and hard work can make all the difference regardless of the circumstances. Readers will enjoy this memoir on several different levels. (adapted from Colors of the Mountain). KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2001, Random House,Delacorte, 213p., Tibbetts
School Library Journal
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.
Kirkus Reviews
Adapted from his work published for adults, Colors of the Mountain (1999), this autobiography of a landlord's son growing up as a pariah in his village in the '60s is gripping and funny. Da Chen is a good student, but he drifts in and out of school with the political climate, in many ways choosing the path of least resistance, but also holding onto the things that move him—history and music. As the youngest, he is encouraged by his family to pursue his studies, as all his older siblings have been forced into farming. Da Chen's narrative moves smoothly, communicating setting and character with an immediacy that will draw young readers in. It is nearly word-for-word the same as Colors of the Mountain. For the most part, the deletions are non-essential to the story, although many of them would have made the cultural climate depicted clearer to young readers. It seems that the reason for the adaptation is primarily for length—although it's unlikely that the missing hundred pages would have made the difference between a young person deciding to read this or not. (Autobiography. 10-15)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.61(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

I was born in southern China in 1962, in the tiny town of Yellow Stone. They called it the Year of Great Starvation. Chairman Mao had had a parting of the ways with the Soviets, and now they wanted all their loans repaid or there would be blood, a lot of it.

Mao panicked. He ordered his citizens to cut down on meals and be hungry heroes so he could repay the loans. The superstitious citizens of Yellow Stone still saw the starving ghosts of those who had died during that year chasing around and sobbing for food on the eve of the spring Tomb Sweeping Festival.

That year also saw a forbidding drought that made fields throughout China crack like wax. For the first time, the folks of Yellow Stone saw the bottom of the Dong jing River. Rice plants turned yellow and withered young.

Dad wanted to give me the name Han, which means "drought." But that would have been like naming a boy in Hiroshima Atom Bomb. And since the Chinese believe that their names dictate their fate, I would have probably ended up digging ditches, searching for water in some wasteland. So Dad named me Da, which means "prosperity."

The unfortunate year of my birth left a permanent flaw in my character: I was always hungry. I yearned for food. I could talk, think, and dream about it forever. As an infant, I ate with a large, adult spoon. I would open wide while they shoveled in the porridge. My grandmother said she had never seen an easier baby to feed.

Ours was a big family, and I was at the bottom. There were a great many people above me, with, at the top, my bald, long-bearded grandpa and my square-faced, large-boned grandma. Dad looked mostly like Grandma, but hehad Grandpa's smiling eyes. Mom seemed very tiny next to my broad-chested dad. Sister Si was the eldest of my siblings, a big girl who took after Dad in personality and physique. jin, my brother, had Mom's elegant features; we still haven't figured out just who my middle sister, Ke, looks like. Huang, who is a year older than me, grew up to be a tall, thin girl, a beauty with enormous eyes.

We lived in an old house that faced the only street in Yellow Stone. Our backyard led to the clear Dong Jing River, zigzagging like a dragon on land. The lush, odd-shaped Ching Mountain stood beyond the endless rice paddies like an ancient giant with a pointed hat, round shoulders, and head bent in gentle slumber.

We rarely left our house to play because Mom said there were many bad people waiting to hurt us. When I did go out to buy food in the commune's grocery store a few blocks away, I always walked in the middle, safely flanked by my three sisters as we hurried in and out. Neighborhood boys sometimes threw stones at us, made ugly faces, and called us names. I always wondered why they did that. It was obviously not for fun. My sisters often cried as we ran and dodged and slammed our door shut behind us.

From the Hardcover edition.

Copyright 2001 by Da Chen

Meet the Author

Da Chen is a graduate of Columbia University Law School.

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China's Son: Growing Up in the Cultural Revolution 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Abby Hammond More than 1 year ago
I ended up haveing to read this book for my modern world history class. I ended up being pleasantly surprised. Normally things like this don't spark my attention. Because memoires to me can be rather irritating and not well written. But this one was very well done, Da has his ups and downs the entire book, but at the same time his isn't the sadest story of young children in the cultural revevolution. I will also say if you enjoy learning about communism and that 1960s to 70s cultural revevolution periodd in china, you need to watch 'To Live' it is an amazing movie. But among all things I do recomend this book, even if you aren't a history nerd you might be surprised.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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DR14 More than 1 year ago
I have not gotten the chance to read this kind of book ever before. The "China Son" written by the author, Da Chen is really, really an interesting book which contains a real life problem that had happen in China many years ago in someone's life. From this book and the work done by the protagonist, Da Chen, is that there is always a possible way to become successful in a profession and can have experience no matter what your family condition, history, where you live or come from if you work hard. Here in this story, Da worked hard to finished his school life with good EDUCATION. Education is that thing that will take you to the top of everyone if you know it very well, but on other hand it could take you to the bottom of the feet if you didn't know the importance of education and didn't take it seriously. I feel very sad about Da at the beginning of the of his life because he was a child from a very poor family who can't even have a food to eat whole year with enough satisfaction. The people who doesn't have heart will quit if they were to be in the extreme situation where you have to outside the door before you opened it. Da is not that kind of a person. He has a really strong heart that he proves what he wanted to prove in his life and in the future. He is only the child who was able to go to school freely from his home and doesn't have to work on the fields every day like his rest of the family does. The lived in the place called Yellow Stone in China which was ruled by the Communist Party and have to follow their rule. They were not free at all the times. Can you imagine, how you will feel if you and your whole family works like a machine under the heat of the Sun whole day and can't produce enough crops to eat for whole year and can't go to school as well. Even though his family was illiterate, and has friends who were a gambler he didn't loose his focus on his study. He proves that no one will control your future and your ambition, but it all depends on how much effort you put in into the work. Da is a very hard worker because he always wake up early in the morning and go to bed at late night. He put himself in an educational jail with no friends, no fun time, no rest. The only thing he could do is dive into the pages of thick books that have been laying on the table for weeks. He wanted to go the college in Beijing which is five hours away from the Yellow Stone. In his high school, he passed the every test he took and became the person to who was able to go to college. It's so much exciting for a family when the youngest child is going to attend the college as a first generation and wanted to study the major in English that none of the students have done before. I feel sad when I saw students neglecting their educations by not focusing on what teachers is trying to teach and nothing doing their homeworks because there are students all over the world who wanted to have freedom of education, but they were unable to achieve it. If they get the chance, they will try their hardest to attain everything they can. Nowadays students didn't think Education is important and essential part of their future life which cause them to have bad future. If you think working is better than learning and you think education is not important at all, please read this book "China's Son" once. Then you will be able to find out why is the EDUCATION a essential part of your future life and your family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book China Son by Da Chen focuses on the culture revolution and the time of Mao¿s death. A boy by the name of Da lives through the hardships of being in a landlord family when at the time was one of the worst kinds of families to live in. Many of the characters affect Da by becoming friends with him and turning into enemies. Through out the story Da experiences a life change from his family and the culture revolution. The book starts out with Da going to Pre School and it shows how he became interested in work. Through out the book from the time he started Pre School from the time he finishes college. The book really concentrates on Da¿s hardships with school. After Da makes some friends and becomes top of his class in Pre School he soon finds himself in elementary school for where he faces the most up beating of being in a landlord family. When Da shows up for elementary school for where he gets his most beet up of his class and the teachers. The school year starts out with Da being at the top of his class again and soon becomes the class star of work. Mostly through out the book Da strives to keep his cool by when he is the must surfer copulation he finds a way out by making new friends or by getting back at them though the power work. Towards the middle of his emanatory school career the nice teacher that Da knew so well was replaced by a teacher who was selfish and strict. Da suffered a lot through elementary school and middle school. By the time high school came Da became friends with a kid by the name of I-Fei. Da and I-Fei became the most popular kids in the school although DA was not keeping up with his work. By the time Da came to the mid-point of his year in ninth grade I-Fei moved away and Da began to catch up on his work. Da wanted to enter college and get a good education. Finally after all his hard work D finally makes it to college! Overall China Son is a good book that should be recommended to anyone with the ambition of learning about another culture.
Guest More than 1 year ago
China¿s Son, written by Da Chen, is an interesting memoir, about a young boy living in Maoist China during the Cultural Revolution. Born to a family of landlords¿, Da had all the odds against him. At first he was a very good student, until suddenly, school became unimportant under the rule of Mao and he decided to ignore his schoolwork altogether. Soon he began hanging out with different kids and doing bad things like smoking, and gambling. Later, after Mao¿s rule, school finally became and, option and he quit hanging around his old friends and started a new, all day study regiment to take a test so he could get into college and become an English major. Finally, when the exam test scores were posted Da actually scored as one of the best in the region and attended the highly honored Beijing University. The plot of this novel is really well written and can really attract a reader. It¿s so descriptive in fact maybe a student somewhere can connect or relate to in their own life really makes the plot so great. The plot is also great because it¿s easy to understand and at times can still be powerful, but still easy to read and understand. Also the dialogue in the memoir is really descriptive and informing. Da Chen did a really good job at describing his homeland of China. I think that the word choice and descriptors gave it a nice feel. Also the way he described his family, friends and ultimately his lifestyle, it gives you a sense of the culture and traditions of Chinese people. It also really helps you learn more history about China, especially about Mao and his views, and you learn first hand one person¿s views and ideas about it, who lived through it and experienced it. The main character Da Chen is a very smart and talented character. Throughout the memoir he grows as a person and realizes what¿s really important in his life and what will help him succeed. At first he was focused on his studies like a young boy should have been, but then he veered off track and made some bad decisions with a group of friends. He gambles, smokes, and causes mischief around his town, and he even stops his schoolwork all together. His parents really take no notice to this so he continues this behavior until Mao dies. Then school becomes almost necessary to prove to his family and untimely his self that he can succeed. This really shows his transition from a child to an adult. He then decides to follow his dream to become an English major, which is the hardest major to achieve and very few people ever do it. And when he succeeds in this goal is when he was his biggest triumph and accomplishment in the entire book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
China Son, by Da Chen, is an amazing memoir of Da Chen¿s life. It portrays how life was like for a landlord¿s son during communist times. He includes specific details from his, life such as his friends and enemies, that make the reader want to know more. Many problems arise during the tale, and Da Chen tells of how his family and friends are supporting him and how others don¿t want him to succeed. It is a very wonderful tale about hardships, dreams, hopes, and goals. Da Chen goes into kindergarten and feels pressure from the other students and teachers. He is left out and alone because he is a landlord¿s son. Soon he makes friends with a gang and ends his study habits. He starts becoming a slacker instead of a good student. But after Mao dies, college becomes a goal for many students. Da begins to study again and closes himself from the rest of the world in order to get into a good college so he may help his family in the future. He tries to get an English Major even though many had criticized him that he would not be able to get accepted as one. Many didn¿t believe in Da, but his friends and family were enough to keep him going. When Da took the exam, he got a very high score and was able to get into a college in Beijing. Some communist followers were furious at the fact, and tried sending mails to keep him from going. But in the end Da achieves his dream and goals. The story was full of fascinating events in Da¿s time. It describes all the hardships and problems of being a son of a landlord. It truly showed how Communism and Mao¿s actions were corrupt. Kids had ended learning and became lazy, not caring for what kind of future they were going to have. Da Chen creates a colorful story of how hope can be found in the hopeless. The book does have moments where you need to have more explanation. Such as, Da¿s friends disappear without a story to back it up. Events end too short leaving the author questioning what had happened. Although, this book has a rich story line and has interesting facts about life during Mao¿s reign. This book can relate with many people. I recommend this book to those wanting to know more about China¿s culture.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Do you enjoy books about other cultures? China¿s Son takes place in China, around the time of the Cultural Revolution. This book is written by Da Chen and it is based on a true story currently, Da is living in America. Do you like school? Da Chen is a young boy who is growing up during the Cultural Revolution. He lives in China with his huge loving family. His siblings work in rice fields while his dad works for the Red Guard. Da goes to school, like some people, who could afford school. Eventually, he learns to play the flute and auditions to be in a performance. The judges inspire him to continue on with his education and studies, colleges aren¿t looking for arts and music, but their education. Da asks his English tutor, Professor Wei, to help him be prepared for a college exam. The results get back and Da receives an extremely high score, second best in the country! Since he received a high score, he is able to go back to school and he won¿t have to work in the rice fields with his siblings. ¿This is a book about love in the face of hate, a book for hope for the hopeless.¿ (Page 1) After reading China¿s Son, I disliked the book. In my opinion, the book was too slow moving and there wasn¿t enough action in it. Plus, there were too many characters to remember. I would suggest making a list of important characters. Nothing exciting happened in the book, it just continued to go on and on. Plus, it was confusing at some parts, I had to re-read a section many times to finally understand what Da was talking about to I-Fei. On a good note however, I enjoyed the idea on how it was based on a true story. In America, all children are required by law to attend school. In China, it is a privilege to send your child to school, because schools can be expensive and China isn¿t a wealthy country either. I think the cultural differences are very interesting. Overall though, I disliked the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
China¿s Son: Growing Up in the Cultural Revolution was written by Da Chen who was born in 1962 his book takes place in the town of Yellow Stone, China. The story is mainly about a young boy who loves education, friends, and most of all, his family. Each thing he loves draws him close to a new hobby or lifestyle. Like his friends for example. His friends love to drink liquor and smoke. In the book though, Da does it anyway and you will see how many others do it in the book too. He like many other characters in the book are not peer pressured. His family works hard and he studies hard with education. Da¿s one major dream is to go either to the Shanghai University or the Beijing University. This book really gives others a feel or image of what rural China can be like. But Da is not just a simple farmer. He displays a strong and pursuing attitude towards things in life, even at such a young age. Throughout the book, you will follow his life story and hopefully connect or think about how you would live f you were in his situation. Everyone in Yellow Stone frowned upon education during the reign of Mao Zedong. Da¿s pursuing attitude and others hate towards him, makes him want to grab that diploma and head off to college. I thought the book was an okay read. In some parts of the book, I liked Da¿s writing style. Some of the parts I thought Da wrote very well and how he developed his characters nicely. For example, the main character Da 'himself' is described as a young boy who does well in school. But, he gets off the path of education sometimes and likes to hang with friends and to gamble with his friends. In addition, if you are looking for a quick book to read in about a week, another advantage to reading this book is that it¿s very short. It only has 25 chapters with 213 pages and the average chapter ranges from 6 to 14 pages. The few but major things that continually bothered me were not that Da¿s plot was good 'which was getting into college and other young teen related issues', but, that sometimes he would be talking about his English teachings with a professor and then in the following chapter, skip to working in the farm or hanging out with friends. For me, it was a major issue, but something that would frustrate me because right when you think something will happen, the next chapter he writes does not reveal it and you must wait until the next two chapters. Another thing that bothered me was how Chen described certain scenes or explained them in a long way. It would sometimes just drag out for me and I almost wanted to skim read a couple sections of some chapters. To summarize, China¿s Son: Growing Up in the Cultural Revolution was a nice read. I would recommend it to teachers and to kids in 8th and 9th grade. I think teachers should put it on their curriculum while studying about China. The kids interested in this book, I suggest you buy a copy and get to know other areas of the world and different lifestyles.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i read this book 3 years ago when i was at 4 grade. i still remember it. i couldnt imagine how life was hard at china. Im chinese and i could relate Da Chen with me. its the bet autobio i read so far and i just couldnt stop reading.my dad was yelling at me cuz it was 11:00PM. its the best!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. I've read page after page of Da Chens life and i want more. I just finished his second book 'sound of the River'. And i'm currently looking for his 3 book. I've looked bookstore after book store trying to find the 3 book from the triligy. and I am still looking for his wonderiful writing. I just can't enought of this book. If u can help me please try to send me the 3 book from the triligy and end my search. thank you,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I analy pentrated your mom.. Then i cummed inside of her vagina
Guest More than 1 year ago
China¿s Son is a memoir about the story of Da Chen. Da tells a very moving and inspiring story about growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution, under the communist rule of Mao Zedong. He faced many persecutions from his teachers and classmates because he was the grandson of a landowner. Although he was one of the smartest children in his grade he was kicked out of school and treated very badly when he did attend school. Da became involved in smoking and part of what we would now call a ¿gang¿. Despite these hardships, Da was able to educate himself and become accepted to a University in Beijing where he majored in English. He later moved to the United States and received a scholarship to University if Columbia Law School. For the most part I enjoyed reading the book China¿s Son, but I did feel it was a very cliché story about someone who had to overcome big hardships and eventually reached their goals in the end. It was better than most of the books I have been required to read in school but the book did not have a very ¿juicy¿ plot. This was definitely not a ¿page-turner.¿ If you truly want to enjoy this book, do not read the summary on the back before you start reading. The summary of the story tells you exactly what is going to happen and completely ruins the story. There is no suspense or questioning about what is going to happen in the end. Will Da succeed and be accepted to college? This is the theme running throughout the story and if you read the back of the book this question is answered and the point of the story is ruined.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading China's Son I was not pleasantly surprised. Although the story had some parts I found very interesting, but , but over all I did not find it grabbing my attention. I would not recommended China's Son to most people because it was not very entertaining. I understand that this was a memoir and it is a true story, but I just found it unbelievably predictable. On more of a positive note I thought that it was interesting learning a little bit about China's culture and its government as well as the life of Da Chen and the many obstacles and hard ships he has had to face. In the story China's son, Da had a lot of ups and downs. Da faced some pretty big challenges through out his life at home but more importantly in school. It was nice to see someone who had so little chance have such a strong desire to improve in everything that he did. I would have to say that there have been many books that I have been told to read in various English classes through out the years and some I have enjoyed very much were as other, not so much. In my opinion I think this book was one of those books you read in school that is not very entertaining and is highly educational, but if one likes those qualities in a book then they would probably enjoy it.