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'China's Son' Gives Freshmen First Collegiate Experience

July 14, 2010

China's Son coverGrowing up in the deep south of China as the grandson of a disgraced landowner, Da Chen was a victim of communist political persecution and hollowing poverty during Mao Tse-tung's Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.

His family was beaten, his father thrown in reform camp, and young Chen, at the age of 9, was threatened with imprisonment.

While he excelled in school, he gave up studying in the face of unbearable pressure and harassment from teachers, students, and administrators.

Making a break for a new life, which had included being a member of a gang of toughs, Chen would go on to higher education and would eventually chronicle his life in a novel.

Chen’s depiction of the unfailing family love that helped him survive in a dysfunctional society, the international theme, relatability and the exposure to other cultural and political structures that makes his memoir, China’s Son, an ideal choice for the Bearkats Read To Succeed program’s common reader selection for the 2010-11 academic year, according to Kay Angrove, director of the First Year Experience.

Through the common reader program, now in its third year, freshmen are given a copy of a book to read over the summer, which will be integrated into some of the classes they take through lectures, film series, participation in discussion groups and course assignments.

“The program is more than just reading a common book over the summer,” Angrove said.

The objectives of Bearkats Read to Succeed are to create a common academic/intellectual experience for incoming freshmen, facilitate a campus-wide cross-disciplinary conversation, and enhance the community among students, faculty and staff.”

Summer orientation leaders attend a workshop to learn about China's Son and read the book before recommending it to new freshmen.

As part of the Bearkats Read To Succeed program, Chen will visit campus in October for the annual author’s forum to discuss the book and interact with students, faculty and staff members through class lectures, a creative writing workshop, and a music recital.

“The world is a global village now,” said Shaun Zhang, assistant professor in the communication studies department. “For instance, students at Sam Houston have the opportunity of getting to know China by reading Da Chen's book or by interacting directly with professors like me who grew up in China.”

Books are distributed to freshmen during orientation, but sophomores, juniors and seniors may also participate in the program by purchasing copies of the book from the Barnes and Noble University Bookstore.

“We hope students will enjoy and relate to this book because it is a coming of age story about a young person’s struggle to get to college,” said Keri Rogers, assistant vice president for Academic Affairs. “The book topics offer a range of learning opportunities for our students from lessons in history, geography, politics, cultural diversity, and perseverance in pursuing goals. Book themes also include friendship, community, family, and the importance of education.”

Faculty members who want to adopt the book for their classes, or those who would like more information, should contact Angrove at 936.294.3422 or kxa014@shsu.edu.


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