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Da Chen (pictured) is the kind of guy who makes you feel lazy to be an American. His childhood memoir, Colors of the Mountain, is out in paperback from Random House's Anchor Books, and writing isn't even his day job. Chen wrote the book at night, in his second language, while working in a Wall Street brokerage, after graduating from Columbia Law School on a free ride. Born in 1962 in the tiny village of Yellow Stone in southern China, Da Chen tells the tale of the years leading up to his odds-shattering departure for college at the Beijing Language Institute, one of the mainland's best schools. Chen's family members were wealthy landowners during the first half of the century, which left them a pitiful fate after Mao's rise to power in 1949. But while this is a story of Cultural Revolution-era political persecution, it is also one of childhood innocence in a remote and technologically deprived village. Its best moments are the seemingly banal: Chen swimming with friends in the Dong Jing River, taking a bike ride to the provincial capital for a movie, or eating fried peanuts at the Chinese New Year celebration. Emblazoned with the character "zao," meaning alternatively "to create," "to train or educate" and "achievements or attainments," the book has been called a "Chinese Angela's Ashes." Chen will be signing copies at McIntyre's in Pittsboro on Saturday, Feb. 3, at 11:00 a.m. And if it's anything like his other book signings, he might even play a few classical licks on his bamboo flute. Call 542-3030. --Phil Tinari

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