Born in 1962 in southern China, Da Chen had monumental hurdles to overcome before he could even walk or talk. Mao Tse-tung's Cultural Revolution was in full swing, and the descendents of landlords, who were despised, were routinely stripped of their wealth, beaten, humiliated, and sent off to labor camps. Da Chen, the grandson of a landlord, lives several parallel lives: he excels in school but then gives up studying in the face of unbearable pressure and harassment from teachers, students, and administrators. He is a self-taught musician but also a member of a gang of toughs. His siblings, banned from school, work from before sunrise to sunset in the muddy, backbreaking rice fields. But eventually all the dichotomies in Da's life come together, and he makes a break for a new life, with higher education as his foundation for future success.
Da Chen's engrossing memoir, adapted for younger readers from his book Colors of the Mountain, paints a colorful, painful, sometimes humorous picture of life during the 1960s and '70s, when formerly privileged Chinese families were at the mercy of Chairman Mao and his ruthless Red Guard soldiers. The writing is at times jerky, other times poetic, and Da Chen's time frame can be confusing. However, this is a book young readers will not soon forget, especially if it's their first glimpse of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. (Ages 12 and older) --Emilie Coulter [via]