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Sounds of the River: A Young Man's…
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Sounds of the River: A Young Man's University Days in Beijing

by Da Chen

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I have to say that if this isn't a polished autobiography, or one of a person of extraordinary interest, it does succeed as a story of an ordinary life that gives us some feeling for a time and place - and a human condition - that is relatively unfamiliar to us. Da Chen portrays himself as an eager but naive student of English in China at a time (the early 1980's?) when this was an unusual, and slightly dangerous, course of study. He is caught between his belief in his roots in traditional village life and the scorn and temptations of his sophisticated city bred fellow students, and between his strong sense of self and the demands of the State to conform to the expectations of the Communist Party. That he is eventually telling this story from an academic posting in the United States is no surprise.

This is slow moving, and the naivety can be wearing - but that is only because it is genuinly conveyed. Life didn't move with great rapidity for Da Chen, and the road wasn't studded with great events or meetings with extraordinary people. But move it did, and in this sense this is a story of the whole of China in its slow liberalisations through the 1980's and 90's, up until the time of the Tienanmen massacre. And Da Chen's story, from village to Beijing, to the United States is a story of tremendous change, and of holding onto what makes each of us who we are. Recommended, but as an unremarkable but authentic story of that time. It is interesting to compare this with Jan Bredsdorff's 'Revolution, there and back', a story of a westerner teaching English in China during the same period. ( )
  nandadevi | Dec 1, 2013 |
Not quite as mesmerizing as the first, but nevertheless an engaging read, about a sidelined country boy who made it to the most famous university in the country, and how he overcame all odds there to fulfill his dream.

An inspiration for people who may be thinking that circumstances are too much for them to handle, this book tells us "don't give up!" ( )
  starless_ | Jan 28, 2009 |
A very good sequel to the first memoir by Chen, which encompassed his formative years until age 16. This book picks up where the other leaves off and carries us through college, teaching, and his eventual dream-come-true adventure of leaving for the U.S. ( )
  whymaggiemay | Aug 8, 2008 |
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The Beijing-Fujian Express! I had dreamed about the train, not once, but dozens of times, in color.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060958723, Paperback)

In this "equally beguiling sequel to his acclaimed memoir, Colors of the Mountain" (Kirkus Reviews), teenager Da Chen takes his first train ride away from the farm he was raised on to his new university life in Beijing. He soon faces a host of ghastly challenges, including poor living conditions, lack of food, and suicidal roommates. Undaunted by these hurdles, and armed with a dogged determination to learn English and "all things Western," he competes to win a chance to study in America -- a chance that rests in the shrewd and corrupt hands of the almighty professors.

Poetic, hilarious, and heartbreaking, Sounds of the River is a gloriously written coming-of-age saga that chronicles a remarkable journey -- a travelogue of the heart.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:27 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"Teenager Da Chen gathers soil from the riverbank near his village before he leaves to attend university in Beijing. Those grains bear witness to his past and contain the now silent sounds of the river. Later, spilled onto the dry earth of the North, they will merge two parts of Da's life, as does the second volume of his lyrical trilogy of memoirs." "Beginning with his first train ride to Beijing from his farm, we rumble along with him in the overcrowded and disease-ridden car to the university. Here the author faces a host of ghastly challenges, including poor living conditions, lack of food, and suicidal roommates. Undaunted by these hurdles and armed with a dogged determination to learn English and "all things Western, " he must compete with every other student to win a chance to study in America - a chance that rests in the shrewd and corrupt hands of the almighty professors. In a richly textured tale - by turns poetic, ribald, hilarious, and heartbreaking - Da keeps his indomitable spirit, but will he be any closer to attaining his goal?"--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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