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Colours Of The Mountain by Da Chen - Book Review


Colours Of The Mountain
Da Chen
Arrow Books

Fiction-Net Rating 5 Star Rated Book

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Cover Story

A unique modern memoir of growing up in rural China in the 1960's and 1970's, Colours Of The Mountain is a powerful and moving story of supreme determination and extraordinary faith against the most impossible odds.

A book about friendships, prejudice, familial love and academic striving and of one man's escape from hunger, poverty and ignorance, Colours of the Mountain is an inspiring and eloquently recounted memoir.

We Say

Wow, what a book! I cannot say enough good things about Da Chen's memoir, Colours of the Mountain. Here is a story told with amazing depth.

Set during the 1960's and 1970's, Da Chen takes an honest look at the persecution of his family, in a society that was supposed to be based on a community where each individual worked for the common good. Instead, through Da Chen's eyes we are able to see a society that used their ideals as an excuse to punish others. Although the author grew up in China and many believe that China is so foreign, Chen accurately describes every child's longing to fit in and be accepted. His tenacious pursuit of his dreams while growing up is an example of the qualities that individuals have had which have helped make the United States the prosperous country it is today.

Da Chen's father and mother and the rest of his family are key figures in his success. Despite the fact that they are labeled enemies of the government because they owned land before Chairman Mao and the Communist regime came into power, the Chen family manages to succeed in little ways against all odds. Da Chen's father refuses to be broken and Da Chen's mother successfully keeps the family together while the older Chen is sent to labour camps for "special" indoctrination.

Throughout Chen's young life, the family must endure prejudice, injustice and humiliation at the hands of their fellow villagers. Da Chen's father and mother teach their children to maintain their pride despite the attempts to beat them into submission by all those around them. Chen's father even becomes a well respected acupuncturist based upon his careful study of medical journals.

I was humbled by the author's descriptions of his efforts to pass the exam to get into college and his quest to learn to play the violin. To have had so little but to achieve so much could be cause for jealousy but one cannot help but admire and be shamed by Chen's dogged determination for a better life. Colours of the Mountain is filled with humorous descriptions of a young boy growing up in addition to the cultural explanations that make the memoir that much more interesting. In many ways, Da Chen tells a tale not unlike Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. One cannot help but fall in love with the youthful exuberance described by Chen.

Colours of the Mountain is a wonderful memoir that I cannot recommend enough. I was so disappointed when I finished reading it. Like an incredible moment in time that you wish would never end, I did not want Chen to stop telling his story. If this had been a fictional story about a young boy's coming of age in China, I would have still loved it. The fact that it is a memoir made it all that much more powerful. To say Chen's story is great because it is about growing up in China would be a huge discredit to his abilities as a writer. I felt as if I knew the members of Chen's family and his friends based upon his wonderful descriptions and narrative.

Colours Of The Mountain is definitely a 'must read' book.

Review by: Yumi Nagasaki-Taylor

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