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Colors of the Mountain Paperback – January 16, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Later Printing edition (January 16, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385720602
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385720601
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Now a writer living in New York, Da Chen describes his youth in mainland China with engaging humor and affecting warmth. It's often a harrowing tale: born in 1962, Chen was the grandson of a landlord, which rendered his entire family pariahs during the Cultural Revolution. And though initially an excellent student, he was ostracized in school and told he could never attend college. He responded by making friends with a group of young thugs who drank, smoked, and gambled but were kind to him. After Mao died in 1976, the budding juvenile delinquent discovered that higher education might be available to him after all. Chen worked hard to make up for years of neglected studies, and his memoir closes with a jubilant scene as he and his brother Jin are both accepted into college; for his suffering family, "thirty years of humiliation had suddenly come to an end." Chen's lucid yet emotional prose unsparingly portrays a topsy-turvy society where unfairness reigns and the rules are arbitrarily changed without warning, but his zest for life and sharp eye for character make even the most awful moments grimly funny. This is no saga of victimization, but a thrilling account of an ordeal that fosters spiritual growth. Readers will cheer Chen's triumph over daunting odds. --Wendy Smith --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The grandchild of a former landlord--China's most spat-upon class after the Revolution--Chen was regularly beaten to a pulp by other children and, despite performing at the top of his class, repeatedly denied the right to continue at school. His family of nine--including his brother, three sisters, grandparents and parents--subsisted on moldy yams alone for entire winters. Meanwhile, his grandfather was attacked randomly by neighbors and forced by the local authorities to guard lumber and tend fields. Chen's father, with his prerevolutionary college education, eventually managed to extract himself from the labor camps by becoming skilled in acupuncture (he used the biggest needles on the hated "cadres"). At the climax of this survival story, Chen, the book's first-person narrator, and his older brother, Jin, both compete in China's first nationwide, open educational tests in 1977: "We were out to make a point. The Chen family had been dragged through the mud for the last forty years.... Now it was time." Scoring among the top 2% of the country, the 14-year-old Chen achieved his dream of attending Beijing Language Institute. According to the epilogue, after graduating with high honors, he wound up in New York at age 23, where he won a scholarship to attend Columbia Law School, and later landed a job on Wall Street and married a doctor. Despite the devastating circumstances of his childhood and adolescence, Chen recounts his coming of age with arresting simplicity. Readers will cry along with this sad, funny boy who proves tough enough to make it, every step of the painful way. Agent, Elaine Koster. 5-city author tour. (Feb.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

First, Da Chen is not a son of a landlord (his father is).
cnemo
Da Chen's story of how he survived the cultural revolution and brought honor to his family is inspirational and TRUE!
D. Singh
I enjoy this book as Da Chen wrote beautifully and at times, almost poetically.
Dizziey

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Alan K. Anzai on February 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Da Chen's tale is both entertaining and inspiring. His perseverance and hope despite the chaotic times of the Cultural Revolution are uplifting. His story illustrates the power of the human spirit, and also the profound impact that kind adults (his cousin, Wen Qui, and his English teacher, Professor Wei) can have on an impressionable youngster, as he stood at various crossroads in his life. If you enjoyed reading Gus Lee's coming-of-age story, "China Boy," you'll also appreciate this book. Hopefully, the author will write a sequel to further track his adventures, from country bumpkin to prestigious Beijing Language Institute, and later, Columbia University Law School.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Mark A. on March 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As with many recent memoirs, "Colors of the Mountain" is a warm-hearted, plain spoken, attempt at understanding a childhood -- one more difficult than most of us can possibly imagine. A born artist, Da Chen seems to have spent most of his life in America determining how to come to grips with this impossible youth. Most reader criticisms have to do with the book's flawed factual details -- but what writer is going to remember the names of office-holders and bureaucrats from when he was nine years old? The more important point is that Da Chen made something out of this remarkably trying childhood and became a remarkable man and writer. That is why the book was written. I look forward to the sequel.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By David J. Gannon on February 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
Colors of the Mountain is the story of Da Chen's coming of age in post revolutionary, rural China. The son of a family of "landlords", a despised class in China at this time, the book is semi autobiographical and is an inspirational tale of prevailing against long odds. It is also a wonderful window into life in rural China--the nature of the countryside, the characters all small towns seem to produce in doves all over the planet, the struggles that everyone must endure off in the "boonies". (One suspects that these elements of the story probably aren't far from what life is currently, China being the place it is.)
On the whole I found the narrative to be compelling, the characters memorable and the story quite well structured. If there is a major flaw in the novel it's that the language is sometimes repetitive and awkward--one can intuit that English is obviously not Mr. Chen's native tongue. On the whole, however, this flaw in the end just adds to the charm and mood of the tale far more than it detracts from it.
I bought 5 or 6 copies of this to give out as Christmas gifts this past December and everyone who I gave it to has enjoyed it. You will too.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Craig Matteson HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I have no way of knowing whether this story is true or not. It certainly feels authentic to me. It is strange to me how the cultural revolution is remembered differently among several of the chinese I know. Everyone admits it was a tough time, but some are willing to let Mao off the hook in the name of order. Others see Mao as a killer. Hey, they aren't mutually exclusive views! Mao was a killer and he provided order for China. Which do you prefer, life or order?
Like a recession, it is serious when you are unemployed and mild when others are out of work. If you and your family survived without being damaged by the cultural revolution you may think it wasn't all that bad. However, Da Chen's family was almost destroyed by it. It seems that all sides would consider this huge historical event a bit more deeply than it appears they do.
It seems kind of silly that in a country as large as the US or the even larger China one would categorically say what one family could or could not experience based upon some generalized study of the culture. Life is full of oddities and exceptions. The facts are that under Communism there are totalitarian powers given to the party and those are excersized all the way down to individuals and often in petty, vicious and horrible ways.
And to say that because it was Da Chen's grandfather that was the landlord and therefore it wouldn't have affected the author is a very odd criticism given that families, even in the west, carry stigma from outcast ancestors for generations.
It would be great to see verification one way or the other, but in any case it is a powerful story of life as an outcast. It is an easy read that you won't want to put down until you finish it.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By D. Singh on May 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
I'm sick of the reviewers that are China apologists that have attacked this wonderful book. If you're such defenders of that cruel government, why are you living in the United States? Da Chen's story of how he survived the cultural revolution and brought honor to his family is inspirational and TRUE! He lived it, not YOU! The ending is especially touching as to the relationship between a father and his son. Again, don't listen to the negative reviews and read this book. You won't regret it!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Wordlings on May 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
I bought this book on a whim, and then read it in one 8-hour stretch. Da is just a couple years older than me, and it was amazing to compare my middle class life in America in the 70's to his life in China at the same time. This comparison was invited because Da and I were very much alike as kids, even though he was half a world away. The best autobiographies remind you that individuals can have many different kinds of experience, but People are much the same everywhere.
I wouldn't worry too much about the negative reviews I've read here. They're just jealous. I bet that person is Han, still trying to stick it to Da after all these years.
"Facts" are more than irrelevant in a book like this. The only important thing is how Da saw his own life at the time. The book succeeds remarkably in this respect. And Da's command of colloquial English is shockingly good. It's quite a feat that he wrote this book in English. If I didn't know he was a born Chinese-speaker, I probably never would've guessed.
Bravo.
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