Books by Da Chen

Da Chen is thirty-seven years old and is a graduate of Columbia University Law School, which he attended on full scholarship. A brush calligrapher of considerable spirituality who also plays the classical bamboo flute, he lives in New York's Hudson Valley

SWORD by Da Chen
Released: Aug. 26, 2008

In the China of the Cultural Revolution, Ar Kin returns to his village after years spent in prison for speaking out against Communism, bringing with him a library of forbidden books and a head full of forbidden tales. One such is that of Miu Miu, who instead of seeing the matchmaker on her 15th birthday undertakes the task of avenging the murder of her father's murder, a swordmaker put to death by the Emperor after making the perfect blade. Miu takes another of her father's weapons and sets off disguised as a boy. After several adventures, she meets her betrothed, and the two plot to kill the emperor together. Miu Miu, like Ar Kin, the teller of her tale, defies tradition and the ruling powers and is punished, but survives. Ar Kin's tale of revenge and mystical Kung Fu takes place in ancient China, and both the era and the characters come to life. Fans of Asian martial-arts movies and manga will be satisfied and eager for the second volume, due in the fall. (Fantasy. 12-16)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 19, 2006

"Often melodramatic, but Da Chen's sweeping tale, reminiscent of Zhang Yimou's film To Live, successfully transports Chinese conventions into English to recount the agony of history."
From Shaolin to the sugarloaf mountains of Gwangdong to Tiananmen Square and the skyscrapers of New York: an epic novel that neatly distills modern Chinese history. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 14, 2003

One assumes that this story was pitched at an acquisitions meeting as "Harry Potter meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." Luka, an orphan, has been raised by the indigent monk Atami as the Chosen One, the Holy Boy destined to free China from the Mogo occupation. Instead of a scar on his forehead, he bears five moles on each foot, and, like his Western counterpart, he must undergo severe trials and learn an arcane art in order to realize his destiny. A series of misadventures (including a short stay on death row), which separates him from Atami, leads to Luka's discovery of a new mentor, Yin Gong grandmaster Gulan, and his formal apprenticeship at the Xi-Ling temple. Chen's (China's Son, 2001) first foray into fiction represents a headlong dash through an alternate China in which magic lurks just below the surface. Luka is an appealing character whose determination and facility with the martial arts are balanced by humor and a healthy dose of pre-adolescent competitiveness. He collects around him a coterie of friends, from a pair of street ruffians to a trio of students who instruct him in temple etiquette and help him in his feud with Yi-Shen, the resentful boy he displaces as junior master. The language is colloquial, even earthy, and helps to maintain the work's sense of fun; this is light years away from the ponderous, stilted martial-arts saga of the popular Western imagination. The breathless pace helps to conceal some looseness in the plotting, including a real fuzziness about the time elapsed during Luka's adventures, but with secret tunnels and magical beasts galore, who cares? While the story and characters cannot be accused of blazing originality, this offering nevertheless presents an agreeable and unusual twist on a tried-and-true formula—a solid addition to the "While you're waiting for . . . " display. (Fiction. 11-15)Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2001

Adapted from his work published for adults, Colors of the Mountain (1999), this autobiography of a landlord's son growing up as a pariah in his village in the '60s is gripping and funny. Da Chen is a good student, but he drifts in and out of school with the political climate, in many ways choosing the path of least resistance, but also holding onto the things that move him—history and music. As the youngest, he is encouraged by his family to pursue his studies, as all his older siblings have been forced into farming. Da Chen's narrative moves smoothly, communicating setting and character with an immediacy that will draw young readers in. It is nearly word-for-word the same as Colors of the Mountain. For the most part, the deletions are non-essential to the story, although many of them would have made the cultural climate depicted clearer to young readers. It seems that the reason for the adaptation is primarily for length—although it's unlikely that the missing hundred pages would have made the difference between a young person deciding to read this or not. (Autobiography. 10-15)Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 2000

A moving evocation of life in a remote village in China in the 1960s and '70s. The Chens had the misfortune to be descended from a landlord, and the consequences followed all the descendants, even the grandchildren, as ineluctably as race in the worst days of the old South. Their property was confiscated, they were forbidden to go to school, they could be abused and beaten up with impunity by their neighbors, their father was sent to a work camp, and most of the children worked for long hours in the fields, "farming the land the same way we had done thousands of years ago, the only difference being that we got paid less.— And yet, for all the cruelty and humiliation, there is an exuberance about this book. The Chens— remote village escaped—was hardly even aware of—the worst excesses of the Cultural Revolution. At the same time, China itself was changing. Chen was allowed to go to school, and even though he was persecuted and victimized, and on one occasion had to escape to another village to avoid being branded a counterrevolutionary, his school and village took occasional pride in his achievements. Chen taught himself to play the violin and consorted with local toughs who discouraged the school bullies. All the while, his family, even by Chinese standards, remained exceptionally loving and supportive. His father's talent for acupuncture was so helpful to the party hierarchy that he was discharged from the work camp, credited with a miraculous repentance. Chen's triumph comes after the Cultural Revolution, when college places are opened up to competitive examinations, regardless of class status, and he wins the supreme prize of a place at the Beijing Language Institute. Chen's memoir displays an unusual and remarkable insight into Chinese life, and into the resilience of the human spirit. (Author tour) Read full book review >