Sounds of the River, by Da Chen

The OCUReads program, which has become a highlight of new student orientation, requires all incoming first-year students to read a common book before arriving on campus for fall classes and to participate in discussion groups and attend a talk given by the author.


Front cover of the book In this “equally beguiling sequel to his acclaimed memoir, Colors of the Mountain” (Kirkus Reviews), teenager Da Chen takes his first train ride away from the farm he was raised on to his new university life in Beijing. He soon 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 competes to win a chance to study in America — a chance that rests in the shrewd and corrupt hands of the almighty professors.

Poetic, hilarious, and heartbreaking, Sounds of the River is a gloriously written coming-of-age saga that chronicles a remarkable journey — a travelogue of the heart.


During orientation week, students attended discussion groups about the book and met Author Da Chen at his presentation and book signing.


Author Da Chen.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.



The Fall Honors Colloquium class developed the following presentations as supplemental materials to the OCUReads book:

Chinese Culture: Tradition and Change (.ppt)
By: Marina Kravtsova, Maria Andrade, Anthony England, Whitney Haney

What are the Major Impacts of China’s Cultural Revolution? (.ppt)
By: Oanh Nguyen, Andrew Pontikes, Joshua Phillips

How did the Opium Wars affect China’s Foreign Relations? (.ppt)
By: Hieu Tran, Lydia Martinez, Luke Reese, John Richie

Rooted in History: Feminism in China & the United States (.ppt)
By: Elizabeth Koepp, Amanda Lee, Erin Long, Laura Murray, & Natasha Scearse

Future Global Status of China (.ppt)
By:Joanna Chenoweth, Kelsey Guard, Peter Harlin, Patra Kositchaiwat

Falun Gong vs Communist China (.ppt)
By: Jason Blakeburn, Destry Elms, Alexander Gang, Lauren Kolker

The National College Entrance Exam: GaoKao (.ppt)
By: Gang Chen, Allie Schexnayder, Emily Dimmitt

Chinese Food: Behind the Scenes (.ppt)
By: Patrick Brunson, Belinda Bube, Danielle Gendron