cover image CHINA'S SON


Da Chen, . . Delacorte, $15.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-385-72929-1

Adapted for young adults from Chen's memoir (Colors of the Mountain), this coming-of-age tale traces the author's boyhood in Maoist China. Born in 1962, Chen grows up in privation and humiliation as the grandson of former landlords. His family has been stripped of property and is cruelly treated by fellow villagers and politicos. Chen's siblings must quit school to become farmers, his father is fired from his teaching job and repeatedly hauled off to labor camp, and his grandfather is publicly beaten. Chen's only recourse is to excel at his studies ("I shone, despite their efforts to snuff me out"). The pacing here lurches a bit; what may have worked well for adult audiences could throw younger readers. However, humor and unflinching honesty inform the narrative, which is shot through with lyrical descriptions ("my fate stood undecided, wavering in the wind like a blade of grass along the Dong Jing River"). Some of the most involving scenes revolve around the boy's gradual inclusion in a Huck Finn–esque gang that cares little about his privileged background. Young adults interested in this area of history may wish to read Ji-li Jiang's recent Red Scarf Girl, which chronicles her adolescence at the time Mao was taking power. Chen's reminiscences add another intriguing perspective on this turbulent time. Ages 12-up. (June)