Customer Reviews for

Big in China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues, and Becoming a Star in Beijing

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Posted May 7, 2011

    A "non fiction" love story

    To Alan Paul.

    I was reading a book about the life of Theodore Roosevelt; and "Big on China", was waiting on my night table. Then, I decided to momentarily abandon Theodore, and embrace Alan's story.I am glad I did.
    Your book is very entertaining and interesting. Reading the book, I laughed loudly many times.
    Your expat life, had a lot in common with our family own experience, as expats. And many of your very funny "lost in translation" anecdotes, resemble ours.
    It was particularly funny, the one, when you tried to buy those hairy beans!. It reminds me of an episode, shortly after our in migratory arrival to Flint, MI. We intended to grill an "Argentinean asado", and we went to the nearby market. We wanted to by "sweet breads", but I asked to the nice young lady in the meat department, if she has some "sweet BREASTS". And, I didn't know why she was embarrassed!. Fortunately, I was in the company of my wife and children.
    The anecdotes that you describe, describing the adventurous travel with your family, and your family life, and the mutual loving interaction with Becky and your kids, are particularly charming.
    Your success as a musician in China, reminds me of the aphorism, which "nobody is a prophet in his own land". But, as a musician, you were successful in foreign lands.
    Your double feelings of loyalty, when leaving China, are very understandable. Your relatively short time in China, finally, was not long enough to counterbalance your "American soul".
    It is different, when you are far away of your homeland, like me and my family, for a long time, and you slowly by surely and inadvertently, cut your attachments to the Old Country, and create new, permanent ties to your new land.
    In the latter case, the phenomenon was described by a famous Guatemalan poet, (Miguel Angel Asturias), who spent much of his life in exile. "You are a foreigner where you live, and you also became a foreigner in your homeland". You were at the beginning of that process. And your feelings that you, candidly, describe so well in your book, clearly reflect that reality. Your coming back to USA, aborted the process.
    I think that it take guts, to describe so openly your most intimate feelings of your loving relationship with your family. That is also an aspect of your writing, which I enjoyed very much. You were able to solve so well, the conflicting urges between your musical vocation, your work as a Columnist, and your "housekeeper" self imposed obligations.
    The "band" formation and evolution, to became the "Best Beijing Blues Band", shows that "inspiration and perspiration", and a dose of "good luck", are basic ingredients for "stardom".
    Even though, that kind of music is not my "cup of tea", I very much enjoyed your CD. Particularly the "Beijing Blues", "Anjing Shenghuo", and "Come to the Edge". I know, how much effort it takes, to edit, arrange and record a professional CD. But I think, that you have done a remarkable recording. Including, the art and comments in the sleeve.
    To end this lengthy review, I must say, that the brief comment of one of the reviewers of "Big on China", "hits the nail in the head"; your book is a non fiction "story of love"

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 5, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent Travel Writing

    When Alan Paul's wife Rebecca lands the position of bureau chief in China for The Wall Street Journal, Paul did not hesitate to move to support his wife's career. The family packed up their three young children and headed off for a three-year adventure. They landed into the life the expatriate community; gated compounds, private schools and scads of servants to help with the cooking, cleaning, child care and other day to day chores.

    Paul saw two reactions to the ex-pat life. One group devoted their energies to recreating their former Western lives in every detail, training their Chinese cooks to produce Beef Wellington and shrimp and grits. Paul chose the other route. He and Becky wanted to experience their time abroad enmeshing themselves in the foreign culture they were surrounded with. They chose to eat native food, take excursions far from the tourist spots and learn the language.

    Paul also discovered an added bonus. With so many traditional mooring cut loose, he and others found an amazing freedom. People were free to try careers and follow hobbies they had not had the time to pursue before. For Paul, that meant music.

    Paul had come from a musical family; his father a doctor who played in a jazz band all his life. Paul himself had worked as a columnist for years for Guitar World and interviewed many of the top names in music over the years. But he had not pursued a musical career himself, figuring he could never be as talented or successful as those who surrounded him. In China, he found himself meeting some Chinese musicians and along with another ex-pat friend, formed a band. Originally started for fun, the band, Woodie Alan, became successful beyond his wildest dreams and blending Eastern and Western music.

    Big In China is a fascinating travel book. The reader learns about Chinese culture through several individuals who are profiled in depth. Alan's love of adventure and his family and friends, as well as his ability to seize opportunities and live life fully are evident. This book is recommended for readers interested in travel writing or music.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 15, 2011

    This Book is a Must Read!

    Alan Paul is a remarkable story teller. His writing is engaging, entertaining and insightful. There is never a dull moment as Paul waltzes his reader through his initial decision to move to China, juggles the acrobatics of everything entailed in settling three young children in a new country whilst injecting his enthusiasm and sense of adventure in discovering the marvels of China. His ballet is most amazing because he also manages to redefine his life by creating an award-winning Blues Band.
    This is a riveting story I couldn't put down.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Big in China is Alan Paul's memoir of his three-and-a-half years

    Big in China is Alan Paul's memoir of his three-and-a-half years in Beijing living as an expat with his wife and three young children. His wife Rebecca was offered a job as the Wall Street Journal's China bureau chief, and Alan was a stay-at-home dad and freelance writer. They saw this move to China as an opportunity and they embraced it by working hard and taking frequent trips off the beaten path into the villages in China and mingling with the people.

    I simply loved reading about these trips and admired how they did this with three young children in tow. It was also interesting to see how the expat community lived within compounds that were gated and guarded and their homes staffed with servants who did everything: cooked, cleaned and took care of the kids. Although Paul and Rebecca pursued their careers passionately, they were clearly close as a family and made sure to spend time as a family doing things together.

    Alan was also editor for Guitar World and loved to play the guitar. One day he stumbled upon Woodie, a hip Chinese man who loves blues music. Shortly after, they formed the blues band Woodie Alan. It was a match made in heaven. Little did they know that their cross-cultural collaboration would become so successful that they would earn the title “Best Band in Beijing” and would go on to tour China and produce a CD album of original songs in both English and Mandarin. Having just finished reading Guitar Zero by Gary Marcus, which explored the science of learning music, I was able to truly appreciate what it took for these men and their band members to play so well together and rise to success so quickly.

    Big in China is a well-written, enjoyable read about how one man and his family fell in love with a foreign country and its people. It's easy to read, and although it opened my eyes to China and its culture, it did not delve into any of the politics and immense social problems known about China. Rather, it focused on Alan's perception of embracing life on unfamiliar territory with his family. It's a heartwarming account of how one man discovered first-hand that people of vastly different cultures are very much alike and yearn for the same things, including the transcending joy from an art that unites people everywhere: music.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2013

    This is the pool and hot tub

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2013

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