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Sounds of the River: A Memoir

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  334 ratings  ·  34 reviews
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 w ...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published October 18th 2011 by Harper (first published 2002)
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(showing 1-30 of 629)
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After reading Da Chen’s first memoir Colors of the Mountain, I had to read the sequel to it. This second memoir opens with 16-year old Chen boarding the train for Beijing to begin his life at a prestigious university. It ends with him becoming a professor at the university and eventually receiving a scholarship to study in the United States. What a huge transition! What an experience it was for a young man from a small rural village to face the world of a city that was far beyond anything he had ...more
This was really a portrait of a poor Chinese scholar who did not give up his hopes and dreams of studying in America. I have profound respect for people of his generation.
I found this book by random, so my review of this book may not be as well supported as the others since this particular one is not the first of the series- as i found out later. However this book is alive. It really creates a mirror into his life, its personal and wonderfully told. Da Chen's description of nature and the people, his culture are rich and tantalizing. Even though the subject in which he speaks mostly of are his university days; he allows the reader to sympathize for him. laugh wit ...more
Sarah Lin
Apr 08, 2007 Sarah Lin rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: yes
Sensitive portrayal of one man's journey from Yellow River, a small farming village along the coast of Southeast China, to the Beijing Language Institute for college (to major in English.) Memoir. Paints an honest portrayal of prejudices b/w Chinese from cities versus countryside, b/w farmers and scholars, and reveals some of the hidden workings of China.
If you can't handle too many metaphors in one sentence, don't read this book. I liked Sounds of the River best for its glimpse into a young man's journey from small town life in the Chinese countryside to Beijing as well as its portrayal of university life in Beijing in the 1980s.
An excellent book. Chen makes reading a joy.
His story of China takes into a very fun, humble ordinary world.
Filled with extraordinary people.

A great read.

I recommend it to everyone..including high school aged readers.
Interesting read, especially in light of the recent Beijing Olympics. I can always do without adolescent antics, but that is par for the course I assume. The descriptions are beautiful and Da Chen has a very poetic way of writing.
the sequel begins with Da Chen taking his first train ride to Beijing and ends with him winning a chance to study in America.
2nd part of Da Chen's life story. More engaging than Colors of the Mountain, but not one of my favorite books by any means.
I remember being enchanted by Da Chen's writing while reading Colors of the Mountain. I expected the same type of feel good, overcoming all obstacles in the face of horrible odds type of book when picking up Sounds of the River. I was not disappointed at all.

Chen's story picks up on the train ride to university in Beijing. Being the only country boy in his classes, he's immediately at the bottom of the bottom. The memoir is a story of a boy who knows what he wants and does anything to get there.
This is quite a moving book. I enjoyed the humor with which the author could broach such a challenging and frustrating life. To understand the restricting and manipulated world of 1980's China is confusing. To think that Chen can look at so many of the vignettes of his life at the University in Beijing with such humor mixed with anger is hard to understand. I am certain the anger would overwhelm me and I would struggle to keep the humor in mind.

I also enjoyed the window this opened up for me in
Feb 01, 2011 Anthony rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anthony by: internet
I believe the strength of this book is the insight it allows to a young man's transition from a country boy to a young professor during a unique transitional period of China itself. The failed Chinese Culture Revolution lead to a more capitalistic approach to society and the youth felt a sense of opportunity. If one worked hard enough anything could be achieved.

I enjoyed this read simply because of the human interest element. I felt the emotions of the author through his vivid written details as
Christina Rumbaugh
Aug 12, 2009 Christina Rumbaugh rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Recommended to Christina by: Freshman required reading
I only remember a few things about this book and the man who wrote it.
- He bribed some dude (president of school) with oysters by telling him they were aphrodisiacs.
- He got food poisoning and had to crap his black, diseased crap into a hole in the floor.
- Somewhere, a library burned in a field.

And that pretty much covers it. It was really dumb and boring. It was probably one of the worse pieces I've ever had to read for summer reading. I'm not sure if any of my Freshman class disagrees with th
Da Chen is one of the keynote speakers at the National Council of Social Studies in Denver in November, 2010! He has written many memoirs. This one takes place after the Cultural Revolution. Da's use of language is beautiful! Da had quite a cultural adjustment, moving from his beloved rural hometown to Beijing to attend the university in Beijing to learn English. The beaurocracy of the university had remnants of Mao's Cultural Revolution mixed with who's who and who you have to bribe and please ...more
Da Chen uses some of the most delightful similes and metaphors I have ever had the pleasure to read. I loved this continuation of his story starting up right where "Colors of the Mountain" left off, as he boards a train from Fujian Province heading to university in Beijing. I have really come to love Da and am missing learning more about him since the book ended. I really hope he writes another book that relates his experiences as a new immigrant in America. The only thing that keeps me from giv ...more
Inge De Velde
Zo'n fris boek over volhouden, ik heb het heel graag gelezen.
Complete page turner.
Contrary to the positive reviews on the back of Chen's book, I disliked Chen's memoir. I thought that it was immensely boring. Every time I tried to read it, I fell asleep. The only thing that saved the book from being an utter disaster was the comic relief throughout; however, some of the funniness was gross little boy humor. A whole chapter dedicated to Chen's diahrrea issues?! Preposterous..
Bang Lin
Written by my dad's classmate. Wasn't a huge fan of the writing style or the chip on the shoulder schtick. I think there are better books if you want to read about China in the 1980s. This book probably would've read much better in Chinese. As an English snob I wasn't a fan of the “writing a book in your second language" aspect.
The sequel to Colors of the Mountain- a riveting two part memoir of a young boy's dreams. After suffering through Mao Zedong's regime as the son of a landlord, Da Chen aims for a better life for himself and his family. In this book, he reaches college in Beijing (far from home in Fujian) to study English.
'Sounds of the River' is set in an interesting foreign world which is made real as you write it. English is not Da Chen's first language, but he has a beautiful poetic voice. It's a great book from a historical, cultural, and lyrical perspective.
Da Chen has written several books, biographical in nature, concerning his quest for education in an oppressive state of China. He is an extraordinary individual who over came great odds to arrive in America and become a well known author.
Da Chen's description of his college experience in Beijing in the 80s provides an interesting contrast to the American experience, but at the core they are similar. People finding out who they are, and who they are not.
Found this randomly at a B&N in 2002 and read the whole thing in the book store. This book got me so enthused about China. Really cool story. Wish Beijing was still like this. Feels like a different planet now.
I;m adding Da Chen's books to my goodreads page because I LOVE HIM. And he is truly the best writer you have never heard of. I just wish he would stop effing around and finish his biography.
I was so excited to read this book because the author's first book was so good. This, however, felt laborious. I stopped halfway through. Sad.
I found it very interesting to read about college life in another country in a different time. Now, I want to read other books by Da Chen.
I loved this book! As a teacher I found it especially interesting.
Matthew Rich
Every bit as good as the first. Uproarious and wonderful.
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