We are proud to announce that BookBrowse has won Platinum in the 2024 Modern Library Awards.

Da Chen Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Da Chen
Phtot: Thomas Jack Hilton

Da Chen

An interview with Da Chen

Da Chen talks about how, growing up during the Cultural Revolution, he dreamed of escaping and becoming a warrior 'with mountains at his feet and the sky on his back'- and how these childhood memories formed the basis for Wandering Warrior, his first book for children.

What inspired you to become a writer?
Growing up in a society where freedom of speech was not allowed, I find it the ultimate luxury to be able to express your thoughts openly without having to worry about consequences. Writing, to me, is not only a noble calling but also a family tradition. My great-grandfather was a poet, so was my grandfather (in fact the titles of my two memoirs are from his poem), and my father was a playwright of traditional southern dramas. Writing is one of the four virtues of a Chinese noble man, along with being an accomplished calligrapher, chess player, and musician. I feel both humbled and proud to be able to continue the tradition of my forefathers.

Why did you choose to write for children after your success in writing for adults?
I write for children because they still believe. I write for children because they have the right to know. I write for children because they know a good story from a bad one, an authentic tale from a synthetic compilation.

How did you come up with the idea for Wandering Warrior, straying from the nonfiction genre of your other books?
Children have been gifted with a world of martial art magic in movies, but there is a dearth of written English accounts about these legends of the past, these warriors of the heart. In tragedy, they soared. In turmoil, they rose. They were the phoenix of life, the tragic heroes of our haunting past. They are our hope.
I grew up in the shadows of Southern Shaolin Temple, where martial arts are a cherished tradition. My childhood was filled with tales of legendary warriors who fought for the poor and championed the underdog. Their noble spirits and jiang hu romanticism inspired me. Jiang means river; Hu: means lakes. Together they mean wandering the land, which inspired the title for this series.

Colors of the Mountain, Sounds of the River, and China's Son are clearly reflections of what you experienced during the Cultural Revolution. Was Wandering Warrior influenced by this experience as well?
Luka, the boy in Wandering Warrior, is basically Da Chen in my memoirs, and more, a lot more. He is what I wished I could be when I was bullied and persecuted as a young boy during the Cultural Revolution. How I wished I could fly like Luka, escape the inescapable wall of Communism, and become a wandering warrior with mountains at my feet and the sky on my back.
Wandering Warrior, my first fiction, is my attempt to escape the shadows of my past.

What does going on tour mean to you?
Meeting the hearts I touch through my books. Last month when I gave a speech at Vassar College, a young student there came up and thanked me. He had read Colors of the Mountain not once but many times, whenever he felt tired or discouraged, and it always gave him strength to study on.
My books have become popular textbooks in colleges, high schools, and elementary schools. An elementary school teacher from Madison, Connecticut told me that there is a Da Chen Hour in her class, where children beg her to continue reading my tales to them. Touching all these precious young hearts humbles me.
Many other people come up to me in tears and tell me what wonderful parents I have. They gave me life and raised me, though in poverty, rich in love. It makes me happy that, in return, my books give them immortality.

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Books by this Author

Books by Da Chen at BookBrowse
My Last Empress jacket Brothers jacket Wandering Warrior jacket
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Read-Alikes

All the books below are recommended as read-alikes for Da Chen but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose readalikes

  • Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

    Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

    Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an award-winning and bestselling author, activist, and professor. Her work has been published in over fifty magazines, including The Atlantic and The New Yorker, and included in The Best American... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Wandering Warrior

    Try:
    The Conch Bearer
    by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

  • Lian Hearn

    Lian Hearn

    Lian Hearn is a pseudonym for Gillian Rubinstein, a well-known Australian writer of children's books and plays. She chose not to publish Tales of the Otori, (the series originally consisted of three books but she later added ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Wandering Warrior

    Try:
    Across the Nightingale Floor
    by Lian Hearn

We recommend 4 similar authors

View all 4 Read-Alikes

Non-members can see 2 results. Become a member
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Neighbors and Other Stories
    Neighbors and Other Stories
    by Diane Oliver
    The history of American segregation, along with changes to it in the 1960s, is sometimes taught and ...
  • Book Jacket: Wild and Distant Seas
    Wild and Distant Seas
    by Tara Karr Roberts
    Tara Karr Roberts is a newspaper columnist who also teaches English and journalism. Wild and Distant...
  • Book Jacket: The Djinn Waits a Hundred Years
    The Djinn Waits a Hundred Years
    by Shubnum Khan
    Shubnum Khan's eloquent and moving debut novel opens in 1932, when a djinn that haunts a house by ...
  • Book Jacket: Transient and Strange
    Transient and Strange
    by Nell Greenfieldboyce
    Throughout her powerful essay collection, Transient and Strange, science reporter Nell ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Mockingbird Summer
by Lynda Rutledge
A powerful and emotional coming-of-age novel set in the 1960s by the bestselling author of West with Giraffes.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Leaving
    by Roxana Robinson

    An engrossing exploration of the vows we make to one another and what we owe to others and ourselves.

  • Book Jacket

    Strong Passions
    by Barbara Weisberg

    Shocking revelations of a wife's adultery in 19th New York explode in an incendiary trial exposing the upper-crust and its secrets.

Win This Book
Win The Cleaner

The Cleaner
by Brandi Wells

Rarely has cubicle culture been depicted in such griminess or with such glee."
PW (starred review)

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

I Wouldn't T H W A T-F P

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.