BN.com Gift Guide

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

Overview

The inspiring story of a man, a family, a band, a foreign country, and a new beginning

When Alan Paul's wife was offered the job as the Wall Street Journal's China bureau chief, he saw it as an amazing opportunity to shake up their increasingly staid suburban New Jersey life. Excited and not a little scared, they packed up their three children—ages two, four, and seven—and headed for adventure and uncertainty in Beijing, China.

Based on his ...

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

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$14.99
BN.com price

Overview

The inspiring story of a man, a family, a band, a foreign country, and a new beginning

When Alan Paul's wife was offered the job as the Wall Street Journal's China bureau chief, he saw it as an amazing opportunity to shake up their increasingly staid suburban New Jersey life. Excited and not a little scared, they packed up their three children—ages two, four, and seven—and headed for adventure and uncertainty in Beijing, China.

Based on his award-winning Wall Street Journal Online column, "The Expat Life," Big in China explores Paul's unlikely three-and-a-half-year journey of reinvention in this rapidly developing metropolis. He reveals the challenges that he and his family faced while living in a foreign land, including reaching beyond the expat community, coming to terms with his new role as a stay-at-home dad, and learning to navigate and thrive in an unfamiliar culture. By viewing an intimidating challenge as a golden opportunity rather than as a burden, he saw his world open up around him.

At the heart of the memoir is his time fronting Woodie Alan, a blues band he formed with a Chinese partner. The cross-cultural collaboration became an unlikely success. The band embarked on a tour across China, earning the title "Best Band in Beijing" and recording an acclaimed CD of original music sung in both English and Mandarin, which prompted ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons to say, "This is the best Chinese blues band I ever heard. Who knew?" Woodie Alan was symbolic of Paul's entire China experience and?proof of what transpires when one can suspend preconceived notions and plunge into a new reality.

A testament to the transformative power of a life lived beyond comfortable borders, Big in China reminds us of the importance of always keeping our horizons wide and our thoughts ambitious.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this entertaining memoir, Paul recounts an unanticipated life-changing experience that began when his wife accepted a three-year work assignment in Beijing. After resettling their three young children from suburban New Jersey to China, Paul, a music and basketball journalist who played guitar only as a hobby, embarked on an exploration of local culture and music. The search prompted his transition from writing about music to being a bona fide rock star in the band Woodie Alan, a cross-cultural blues group named after Alan and his Chinese band member, Woodie Wu, a guitarist with a Stevie Ray Vaughn tattoo. Paul blogged about his Chinese experience and also wrote a column on it for the Wall Street Journal's Web site. His story, however, is much more than a musical and journalistic victory dance. It's equal parts family memoir, travelogue, personal analysis of globalization and expatriate communities, and a view of the world's most populous nation through American eyes. (Mar.)
Jeffrey Zaslow
"An absolute love story. In his embrace of family, friends, music and the new culture he’s discovering, Alan Paul leaves us contemplating the love in our own lives, and rethinking the concept of home."
Peter Hessler
"Alan Paul plunges into Chinese life and takes us along for the ride.... He conveys the thrills and challenges of living abroad, the confusions and regrets, and most of all the opportunity to become the person we always hoped to be."
Gregg Allman
"What a romp. After writing about music for years, Alan Paul walked the walk, preaching the blues in China. Anyone who doubts that music is bigger than words needs to read this great tale."
Evan Osnos
"Generations of adventurers have daydreamed of seeing their names up in lights in the world’s biggest country. But Alan Paul-musician, writer, and stay-at-home father of three-actually achieved it through sheer will and talent."
Lijia Zhang
This readable, human account of his China experience shows how one can be richly rewarded in a supposedly ‘hard posting’ when armed with an open, adventurous mind and the Chinese people’s ‘go-get-it’ spirit."
James Fallows
"Alan Paul’s evolution from expat-village ‘trailing spouse’ to star of the Chinese music scene stands for countless similar developments underway in China. I hope many people read this book — and consider a similar adventure themselves."
Rick Telander
"Reads like an epic adventure, with music at its heart and the unity of people as its goal."
James McGregor
"An inspirational, eloquent travelogue that that that flows like a soul-baring letter to friends as it carries readers along on a personal journey of discovery in a land that is rediscovering itself."
Warren Haynes
"It’s hard to imagine a better American musical ambassador than Alan Paul.... With the help of great local musicians, he bridged cultures with notes. It’s an amazing story."
—Jeffrey Zaslow
“An absolute love story. In his embrace of family, friends, music and the new culture he’s discovering, Alan Paul leaves us contemplating the love in our own lives, and rethinking the concept of home.”
—Peter Hessler
“Alan Paul plunges into Chinese life and takes us along for the ride.... He conveys the thrills and challenges of living abroad, the confusions and regrets, and most of all the opportunity to become the person we always hoped to be.”
—Gregg Allman
“What a romp. After writing about music for years, Alan Paul walked the walk, preaching the blues in China. Anyone who doubts that music is bigger than words needs to read this great tale.”
—Evan Osnos
“Generations of adventurers have daydreamed of seeing their names up in lights in the world’s biggest country. But Alan Paul-musician, writer, and stay-at-home father of three-actually achieved it through sheer will and talent.”
—Lijia Zhang
This readable, human account of his China experience shows how one can be richly rewarded in a supposedly ‘hard posting’ when armed with an open, adventurous mind and the Chinese people’s ‘go-get-it’ spirit.”
—James Fallows
“Alan Paul’s evolution from expat-village ‘trailing spouse’ to star of the Chinese music scene stands for countless similar developments underway in China. I hope many people read this book — and consider a similar adventure themselves.”
—Rick Telander
“Reads like an epic adventure, with music at its heart and the unity of people as its goal.”
—James McGregor
“An inspirational, eloquent travelogue that that that flows like a soul-baring letter to friends as it carries readers along on a personal journey of discovery in a land that is rediscovering itself.”
—Warren Haynes
“It’s hard to imagine a better American musical ambassador than Alan Paul.... With the help of great local musicians, he bridged cultures with notes. It’s an amazing story.”
Library Journal
Seize seems too mild a word for what Paul did with the opportunities presented by his family's three-year stint in Beijing. Getting a family of five across the globe and settled into a new home, new jobs, and new schools? Check. Writing an award-winning online column for the Wall Street Journal about the expat experience? Check. Turning a piecemeal group of multinational musicians (including a U.S. Treasury official on saxophone) into "Beijing's premier blues and jam band"? Check. That's a whole lot of living to pack into three years, and it's reflected here in the exhilarating pace of Paul's writing as he bounces easily from domestic scenes to rehearsals and gigs to insights about culture and the human condition. The one constant is Paul's enthusiastic commitment to reflection and self-improvement, which shines through in every chapter. VERDICT A rollicking, inspiring narrative with plenty of memorable characters and scenes. Paul's career hot streak shows no signs of slowing with this entertaining memoir.—Neil Derksen, Gwinnett Cty. P.L., Lawrenceville, GA
Kirkus Reviews

A man's serendipitous rise from writer to rock star in China.

In his debut memoir, Guitar World senior writer Paul recounts the bizarre chain of events that allowed him to achieve his American Dream overseas. When his wife was promoted to China's bureau chief for theWall Street Journal, the author gathered his family and transplanted from New Jersey to Beijing to support her career. Having grown restless in their suburban life, the family left their old world behind. While Paul's tale is weighted with the typical tropes of the travelogue (cultural and translation snafus, among others), the book's high point is the author's ability to "hit the reboot button on [his] life" and benefit from his decision. He soon became the guitarist and vocalist for a Chinese blues band, Woodie Alan (according to one MC, "Beijing's best band"), and their popularity took off, granting him a degree of fame he could have never imagined in America. Paul acknowledges that he and his Chinese band mates were a "novelty act," yet they drew crowds in the thousands. While in China, the author continued searching for glimpses of home, exploring the paradox of leaving a place in order to call it home upon your return. After Paul's father endured a bout with cancer, Paul writes that "the romanticism of being on the other side of the world vanished in an instant," leading him to understand that distance is irrelevant to the heart.

A charming exploration of an expat's unlikely rise to fame, as well as the lessons learned along the way.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062065827
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/1/2011
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,352,187
  • File size: 716 KB

Meet the Author

Alan Paul

Alan Paul wrote "The Expat Life" column for WSJ.com from 2005 through 2009, and he was named 2008 Online Columnist of the Year by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Paul is a senior writer for Slam and Guitar World magazines, and his writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Entertainment Weekly, People, Sports Illustrated, and many other media outlets. He has contributed to The Rolling Stone Jazz and Blues Guide, The Insider's Guide to Beijing, and several other books. He lives with his family in Maplewood, New Jersey.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(4)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • 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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2013

    This is the pool and hot tub

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)