Cover image for Sounds of the river : a memoir
Sounds of the river : a memoir
Chen, Da, 1962-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, [2002]

Physical Description:
x, 307 pages ; 25 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
CT1828.C5214 A3 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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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?

The bestselling author of Colors of the Mountain, Da Chen gives us an engrossing, gloriously written coming-of-age saga that chronicles a remarkable journey -- a travelogue of the heart.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

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. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.