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Sounds of the River: A Memoir Hardcover – February 5, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This book begins where Chen's extremely well-received second memoir, Colors of the Mountain, published last year, left off. Coming from the small town of Yellow Stone in the southern province of Fujian, 16-year-old Chen moves to early 1980s Beijing to study English at the university. More anecdotally driven than Colors, this book's thumbnail character studies and small moments of triumph and defeat do most of the narrative work: the amazement of the other students at Chen's deep tan from working in the fields; the serious professor who teaches the class the multiple uses of the word "fuck"; a Buddhist monk who surreptitiously loves the theater; a friend who introduces high heels, torn T-shirts and jeans to Beijing. Chen delicately weaves his own personal story of maturation into that of the slow shaking off of the Cultural Revolution; he still faces potentially serious difficulties when he uses Sidney Sheldon along with Shakespeare to teach his students English, or meets a psychoanalyst and a musician who are secretly Christian missionaries, are just two examples. But Chen states from the outset that the point of his studies was to get him to the U.S. While this book isn't as constantly engaging and thoughtful as Colors, by its end, when Chen's visa is granted, readers will already be looking forward to the next installment. (Feb. 9)Forecast: Colors, which followed Chen's childhood chronicle China's Son, was widely reviewed and continues to sell in paper; a seven-city tour and an NPR campaign should help all three books. Look for major reviews, some that possibly take issue with Chen's version of '80s Beijing, and bestseller numbers. The story of Chen's arrival in the U.S. at 23 "carrying just 30 dollars and a bamboo flute" (as the galley notes) and subsequent full scholarship to Columbia Law School should be the subject of Chen's next book and of the countless interviews this one should generate.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In this follow-up to the best-selling memoir Colors of the Mountain the second in a trilogy Da recalls coming of age far from home in China's wild north, all the while longing for America.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (February 5, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060199253
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060199258
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,181,516 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By xiaochun tian on March 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I passed by this book in book stores a couple of times. At first, the name Chen Da sounded familiar. Then I thought that it could be because that it is a very common name in China. Last time, I could not help myself to pick up the book. It makes me happy to see another author with Chinese name wrote another story about life in China. Then I opened the book. First came Beijing Institute of Languages, then the Going Abroad Department. All of sudden, I realized that this Chen Da was one of the English teachers who taught my class at that college when I was preparing my own Going Abroad in 1985. I looked Chen Da's picture inside the book sleeve again. Finally I recognized his face.
Chen Da in my memory looked very much different from what he looks like today. Back then, he sported blue jeans while teaching in the classroom, wear long hairs, very thin built with a very big nose on his face, was a very cynical, and hippie looking. From that memory, I just can't imagine that Chen Da could sit down, and write serious books about his past. Having this book in my hand, I just can't be more happy for him. What the difference 17 years makes. We are getting old.
I took my English training in Going Abroad Department at the Beijing Institute of Languages in early 1985. China was opening its door to the outside world. Every college graduate with a brain were doing whatever they could to go abroad to study whatever they could.I was going to U.S. to study Philosophy. My class was the first one that the Going Abroad Department ever had to admit students who paid their own tuitions....It generated lots of demand. As result, the Going Abroad Department offered more classes in following semasters, of course, the tuition were doubled, trippled. They learned the Capitialist way very quickly.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Paula O'Buckley on May 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I heard the author on NPR one day as he read a small excerpt from this book. I had not yet read his previous books. The small excerpt sparked my interest in the book, and the initial inspiration didn't mislead me. This was a fascinating book, with plenty of natural humor, and momentary turns of poetry, particularly when the author becomes homesick. It is not precious, but a nod to something sacred and cherished. I'm currently reading Chen Da's previous books, and hope to review them at a later date.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Cortland Naegelin Jr. on January 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book, even though I felt like the ugly capitalist American while reading it.
While set in Beijing in the 1980's, it still evoked memories of when I was there in 2000. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the traditional marriage arrangements and ceremonies in Da Chen's home town.
We adopted our 2nd child from China in 2000 and will travel again in 2003 for our 3rd. In 2000, I was in China for 2 weeks and was always accompanied by interpreters from the local province college.
One of the adoptive families befriended one of the interpreters and worked tirelessly to get her a full scholarship to a university in the U.S. I heard that she had some difficulty obtaining a Visa to the U.S. and now I understand why.
I have recommended this book to parents who are planning to adopt Chinese children - to help them better understand the culture their children are from.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S. Kutner on August 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
TREMENDOUS BOOK, GREAT EXPERIENCE, FAST SHIPPING. THIS IS A MARVELOUS
BOOK ABOUT A YOUNG CHINESE MAN EXPERIENCING HIS FIRST YEAR OF
COLLEGE.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I loved reading this book and the descriptions of rural Chinese traditions and the hard scrabble life of the author as a student in Beijing.
I went to China in 2002 to adopt our 2nd child and we were accompanied by several interpreters from the local college. Having read this book, I now wonder what they had to do to get these positions - were they the back-stabbing types or the deserving ones? I am travelling to China again in 2003 for our 3rd child and I will now wonder again and maybe even ask them how they came about their assignments.
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