HarperCollins Speakers Bureau

Da Chen

Chinese Memoirist and New York Times Best-Selling Author


  • From China to Wall Street to Best-Selling Author
  • To Know China Is To Be Chinese
  • What Am I Going To Do With My American Son? Lessons of a Culturally Straddled Father
  • New China, Old Thinking
  • Going East!


New York

Da Chen is the author of Colors of the Mountain, a New York Times best-seller, Sounds of the River, and Brothers, which was included on the “Best of 2006” lists in Publisher’s Weekly, the Washington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among others. He has also published two books for children, Wandering Warrior, a novel, and a memoir called China’s Son. His latest book is Forbidden Tales: Sword (HarperCollins Children’s Books), the first in a new children’s book series. A born raconteur, he has given lectures at schools, libraries, literary festivals, collegiate diversity programs, and corporate events to rave reviews.

Chen has been featured in Newsweek, Time Asia, the Washington Post, A Magazine, Chicago Tribune, Newsday, and New York magazine. He has appeared on CNN International, CSPAN’s Book TV, NPR’s Talk of the Nation, The Diane Rehm Show and Weekend Edition, and the Fox News Channel. His books are used as textbooks at Yale, Vassar, Wellesley, Lafayette College, Seton Hall University, State University of New York at New Paltz, Culinary Institute of America, Palo Alto College in San Antonio, Texas, and in high schools and middle schools throughout the country, and have been translated into seven languages.

Colors of the Mountain, his first memoir, was compared to Angela’s Ashes and went on to become a New York Times best-seller. Published in six 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, and a New York Public Library book for the Teen Age List for 2001 and 2002. China’s Son, the children’s adaptation of his memoir, was 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, and PBS TeacherSource recommended book.

Sounds of the River, the sequel to his first memoir, was published to rave international reviews. Los Angeles Times said, “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 raved, “Da Chen’s latest book confirms that he is an extraordinary individual.”

Chen grew up in the deep south of China. 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.

Chen 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.

Chen lives in upstate New York with his wife, Sunny, and their two young children.

Praise for Da Chen’s Lectures:

“Da Chen brings to life the China of his youth – he is an engaging, almost mesmerizing, speaker.”

— Robert Martin, Vice President & Dean of Graduate Studies, Bard College

“We were honored to have New York Times best-selling author Da Chen (Colors of the Mountain) in attendance as one of our esteemed readers at the second annual Arts & Letters benefit at The New-York Historical Society. He joined best-selling author, Gay Talese (The Bridge) and National Book Award Finalist, Amy Bloom, (A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You) and our 2001 honoree, Marcia Gay Harden, (Academy Award ® Winner, Pollock) as we honored world-renowned Soprano Renee Fleming.”

— New-York Historical Society

“Da Chen held our teachers riveted… At the close, this keynote speaker earned a standing ovation from our teachers, a notoriously difficult audience to impress. These teachers called me the following morning to report ‘the most memorable Staff Development Day ever.’”

— Marie Bacigalupo, Director of Humanities, Queens High Schools Office

“I taught middle school students for many years and have heard many presenters but never one who captivated them so completely.”

— Sandra Wright, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction, St. Charles School District, Illinois

“Laughter, applause and sighs littered the auditorium… His presence and performance were inspiring. As an event planner, and as a member of the audience, I would encourage anyone considering Mr. Chen as a feature at an event.”

— Jennifer A. Serena, Special Events YMCA of Greater New York, Arts & Letters Benefit

“Chen enchanted the students with his words, easy nature, and his flute.”

— Taryn. R. Iorlano, Assistant Principal, Myers Corners Middle School