Home Is a Roof Over a Pig: An American Family's Journey in China

Home Is a Roof Over a Pig: An American Family's Journey in China

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by Aminta Arrington
     
 

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When all-American Aminta Arrington moves from suburban Georgia to a small town in China, she doesn't go alone. Her army husband and three young children, including an adopted Chinese daughter, uproot themselves too.
Aminta hopes to understand the country with its long civilization, ancient philosophy, and complex language. She is also determined that her

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Overview

When all-American Aminta Arrington moves from suburban Georgia to a small town in China, she doesn't go alone. Her army husband and three young children, including an adopted Chinese daughter, uproot themselves too.
Aminta hopes to understand the country with its long civilization, ancient philosophy, and complex language. She is also determined that her daughter Grace, born in China, regain some of the culture she lost when the Arringtons brought her to America as a baby.
In the university town of Tai'an, a small city where pigs' hooves are available at the local supermarket, donkeys share the road with cars, and the warm-hearted locals welcome this strange looking foreign family, the Arringtons settle in . . . but not at first. Aminta teaches at the university, not realizing she is countering the propaganda the students had memorized for years. Her creative, independent (and loud) American children chafe in their classrooms, the first rung in society's effort to ensure conformity. The family is bewildered by the seemingly endless cultural differences they face, but they find their way. With humor and unexpectedly moving moments, Aminta's story is appealingly reminiscent of Reading Lolita in Tehran. It will rivet anyone who is thinking of adopting a child, or anyone who is already familiar with the experience. An everywoman with courage and acute cultural perspective, Aminta recounts this transformative quest with a freshness that will delight anyone looking for an original, accessible point of view on the new China.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
American teacher Arrington (editor, Saving Grandmother’s Face) nicely demystifies the Chinese language for English speakers in this down-to-earth memoir chronicling her family’s stint in the Chinese province of Shandong on the eve of the Beijing Olympics. Moving to the edge of Tai’an, a university town at the base of Mount Tai, south of Beijing, Arrington and her career Army husband had finagled jobs as English teachers at the Taishan Medical College, located in a gray, polluted backwater where they were issued an exceedingly small apartment for their five-person (three-child) household. In fact, their middle, kindergarten-age daughter, Grace, was adopted from China, initially prompting the author’s interest in learning Chinese. Arrington’s subsequent straightforward lessons in very basic and key concepts proves a fascinating entrée into the Chinese mindset, for example, terms such as population (she stimulated an uneasy discussion in class about the skewed male-female ratio resulting from China’s one-child policy); the dreaded exam, dictated by the one and only one textbook; and the notion of God, which was rendered as “the emperor above.” Arrington was frankly shocked in the rural province by the rudimentary “squatties,” lack of heating, and unenlightened view about women’s leadership abilities (one proverb ran: “Hair long, worldview short”), though she was ultimately charmed by the decent, good-hearted folk and the romantic, practical ramifications of home rendered in the Chinese character as a roof over a pig. Agent, Alexis Hurley, InkWell Management. (July)
From the Publisher
"Home Is a Roof Over a Pig is a brutally honest and fascinating peek at life for an American family living in a foreign country. I was engrossed in the story as Arrington used her humor, and ultimately understanding and flexibility to survive, realize, and eventually love the contradictory land of China."
—Kay Bratt, bestselling author of Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage

"The power of Aminta Arrington's Home Is a Roof Over a Pig is you can see both sides of the 'China coin' from it—something most people won't get just by traveling through, or only by hearing about China in Western languages. Read it, it will help you dip into the real China."—Xinran, author of The Good Women of China

"American teacher Arrington (editor, Saving Grandmother's Face) nicely demystifies the Chinese language for English speakers in this down-to-earth memoir chronicling her family's stint in the Chinese province of Shandong on the eve of the Beijing Olympics."—Publishers Weekly
"A military wife turned ESL instructor's sharp-eyed account of how the adoption of a Chinese baby girl led to her family's life-changing decision to live and work in rural China . . . candid and heartfelt."—Kirkus

"A fresh, illuminating look at contemporary China." —Booklist

"Her chronicle of their adventures with the language and with the local culture and characters presents intimate glimpses of the profoundly different ideology and philosophy that underlie the quotidian Chinese experience—and of the essential human kindness that can transcend those differences." —National Geographic Traveler

"This book captivated me through vivid accounts of everyday life in China from an American’s viewpoint. The refreshing insights stirred an appreciation and fascination in me for the Chinese people and their culture. As we shape our cultural identity in the increasingly global context, Aminta Arrington inspires us to broaden our understanding."—Yakima Herald

"Arrington is a sunny ('cynicism and I cannot breathe the same air') and energetic guide to today’s China—where Volvos glide among donkey carts and the Kitchen God coexists with Marxism. It is here that Arrington—while seeking out her daughter’s roots—also discovers 'the person I was created to be.'"—Christian Science Monitor Weekly

Library Journal
When her husband retired from the U.S. military, Arrington (editor, Saving Grandmother's Face: And Other Tales from Christian Teachers in China) followed her dream of moving to China with her family. Her memoir includes the typical scenes of Americans trying to learn a new language and adapt to the customs of an unfamiliar land, but it is unique in other ways—for example, in Arrington and her husband's adoption of a Chinese daughter before their move. The book covers the family's first two years in China, with their three young children in elementary school and Arrington and her husband teaching at a Chinese college. Each chapter is arranged around a specific Chinese word that articulates the theme of that chapter, as the family experiences culture shock, settles in, and comes to love their new home with its rich history and difficult language, and as Arrington comes to appreciate the sense of freedom living in China has given her. VERDICT A delightful tale of an American family trying to find the real China. Readers of travel literature and those interested in Chinese culture and history will find this an entertaining read.—Melissa Aho, Univ. of Minnesota Lib., Minneapolis
Kirkus Reviews
A miltary wife turned ESL instructor's sharp-eyed account of how the adoption of a Chinese baby girl led to her family's life-changing decision to live and work in rural China. Soon after Arrington adopted her Chinese-born daughter Grace in 2004, "something began to nag at [her]." She knew that she would be giving the child a family and opportunities that would be unavailable in China, but at the same time, she would also be taking away an essential part of Grace's identity. Consequently, she and her retired military husband decided to become ESL teachers and move their family to China. "Grace's adoption gave a Chinese heritage to our whole family," she writes. In 2006, they traveled to the city of Tai'an in rural China, where they took jobs at a small medical college. Assimilation did not come easily: Not only were they Westerners, but they were also a "three-child family in a one-child world." Arrington became fascinated by her adopted country and its contradictions, but many aspects of its culture, including the authoritarianism and disparaging attitudes toward women, disheartened her. What especially troubled her as a teacher was the way the students, whose minds she had hoped to change, clung to parochial ideas and practices, especially regarding matters of education and politics. Gradually, however, she realized that the freedom she so cherished as an American was an abstract concept that paled in comparison to "real things like family and security" for the Chinese. Arrington neither romanticizes nor demonizes Chinese culture, and she learned to love it despite its limitations. Candid and heartfelt.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590208991
Publisher:
The Overlook Press
Publication date:
07/05/2012
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.04(h) x 1.08(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Aminta Arrington has an M.A. in international relations from the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. She has written about China for the Seattle Times, and she edited the anthology Saving Grandmother’s Face: And Other Tales from Christian Teachers in China. She lives and works in China with her family.

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Home is a Roof Over a Pig: An American Family's Journey in China 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
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