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Biography

Da Chen grew up in the deep south of China, running barefoot in muddy fields and riding the backs of water buffaloes. In his tiny Fujian village, water was fetched from an ancient well swimming with snakes, and the only lights that burned in most households were hissing kerosene lanterns. As the grandson of a disgraced landowner, he was a victim of communist political persecution and hollowing poverty during the Cultural Revolution. His family was beaten, his father thrown in reform camp, and young Chen, at the age of nine, was threatened with imprisonment.

Unfailing family love helped him survive in a dysfunctional society and he found unexpected love and friendship with four other hoodlum outcasts, but dreams made him soar above the poverty and persecution. His first encounter with a Christian woman, a Baptist professor, was life changing. She taught him English and opened the possibility of another world. He excelled in college at Beijing Languages and Culture University, and stayed on as a professor of English after graduating top in his class.

Da arrived in America at the age of 23 with $30 in his pocket, a bamboo flute, and a heart filled with hope. He attended Columbia University School of Law on a full scholarship, and upon graduating, worked for the Wall Street investment banking firm of Rothschilds, Inc.

COLORS OF THE MOUNTAIN, his first memoir, was compared to Angela’s Ashes and was the object of an intense bidding war among five top New York publishing houses and went on to become a New York Times bestseller. Published in fifteen other languages, the memoir was a:

  • New England Bookseller Association Discovery selection
  • BookSense ’76 selection
  • Borders Original Voice selection
  • Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection
  • New York Public Library book for the Teen Age List for 2001 and 2002

CHINA’S SON, the children’s adaptation of Da Chen’s memoir, is a:

  • Borders 2002 Original Voices Award finalist
  • American Library Association 2002 Best Books for Young Adults final nominee
  • New York Public Library Book For the 2002 Teen Age List
  • PBS TeacherSource recommended book

SOUNDS OF THE RIVER, the sequel to his first memoir, was published this year to rave international reviews. Los Angeles Times says, “Chinese literature has brought to these shores many new and interesting voices—the haunting lyricism of Ha Jin, the harsh worldview of Anchee Min, the righteous indignation of Adeline Yen Mah. Da Chen’s voice comes from the soil of China…his exuberance for life and its possibilities set him apart from others in the genre.” USA Today states that “Da Chen’s latest book confirms that he is an extraordinary individual.”

Da’s first fiction for young readers, WANDERING WARRIOR, by Random House Children’s Books, is described by USA Today as “China’s answer to [Harry] Potter.” The movie rights were optioned by Warner Brothers.

His first adult fiction, BROTHERS, was a Quills Book Award finalist and Best Book of the Year by Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Miami Herald, Salt Lake Tribune, and Publishers Weekly.

His literary fiction, MY LAST EMPRESS, received a starred review from Kirkus, heralding it as “Nabokov meets Dream of the Red Chamber,” and was reviewed in The New Yorker.

Da has been featured in

  • Newsweek
  • Time Asia
  • Washington Post
  • A Magazine
  • Chicago Tribune
  • Newsday
  • New York Magazine

And has appeared on:

  • CNN International
  • CSPAN Book TV
  • Talk of the Nation
  • Weekend Edition
  • The Joan River’s Show
  • The Diane Rehm Show
  • Fox5 TV
  • Fox News Channel

His books are used as textbooks in Yale, Vassar, Wellesley, in the New York State University system, and in high schools and middle schools throughout the country. He lives in upstate New York with his wife, Sunny, and their two young children.

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