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Big in China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues, and Becoming a Star in Beijing Hardcover – March 1, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 93 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From 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.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* In this funny, poignant, and entertaining memoir, Alan Paul tells his improbable story of an American music journalist unwittingly becoming a rock star in China with grace and good humor. What�s more, his Chinese American blues rock band, Woodie Alan, earns the title �Beijing�s best band.� This achievement was an accidental by-product of his journalist-wife Rebecca�s position as China bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal. He writes with enthusiasm about his new life as an expatriate American in China with three children in tow, the difficulty of learning Chinese (he concludes he has a better chance of communicating with dolphins than mastering its strange words and sounds), getting a driver�s license, and understanding Chinese rules of the road, which, he theorizes, means never having to stop unless you absolutely have to. His experiences playing in a mostly Chinese band offer plenty of entertaining anecdotes that offer culture-shock insights. His Chinese sojourn ending after his wife returned to New York as the paper�s international news editor, Paul looks back with equal doses of regret for the unforgettable opportunities that came his way and anticipation toward a new American future. Immensely enjoyable. --June Sawyers

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061993158
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061993152
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #436,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Alan Paul is the author of the Top Ten New York Times Bestseller One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band.

His first book Big in China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues, and Becoming a Star in Beijing (Harper) is currently being developed as a film by Ivan Reitman's Montecito Pictures. Big in China is a memoir about raising three American children in Beijing and the unlikely success of his Chinese blues band, Woodie Alan.

Paul is a senior writer for Guitar World and a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal. He wrote "The Expat Life" column for the Wall Street Journal Online from 2005- 2009. The National Society of Newspaper Columnists named him 2008 Online Columnist of the Year. He also reported from Beijing for NBC, Sports Illustrated, the WSJ, and other media outlets.

Woodie Alan, featuring three Chinese musicians and one other American, was named 2008's Best Band in Beijing. Their debut CD, Beijing Blues (Guitar China Records), has been praised by ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, the Allman Brothers' Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes, guitarist Joe Bonamassa, blues harp master Charlie Musselwhite and jam band legend Col. Bruce Hampton who termed the music "simply amazing."

Alan, his wife Rebecca Blumenstein, and their three children reside in Maplewood, NJ.

Please visit www.alanpaul.net or www.facebook.com/alanpaulauthor.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What are the chances of a guy going to China with his wife and family to pursue her career, and ending up winning "Beijing's Best Band" award and touring to rave reviews all over China? Here's this guy who makes the sacrifice to follow his wife along with their three kids to Beijing when she is given the opportunity to be The Wall Street Journal's China bureau chief, giving up everything familiar, and he ends up fulfilling a lifetime dream of his own. He and Woodie Wu, along with two other Chinese friends and an American expat saxaphone player, end up forming the Woodie Alan blues band (How cool is that name?) after they meet when Alan takes a guitar to be repaired at Woodie's shop.

Alan Paul has a style of writing that pulls you into his world. You're right there with him, discovering this country that's changing every day with its industrial and cultural growth. You're standing in the aisles, cheering him on with the band, sharing his interactions with the people and living some of his incredible adventures in a country that is somewhat of a mystery to most of us. Paul is very open in his writing style, conveying a depth of feeling and reflection on his experiences. There's a lot more here than just the story of his band, in fact the first hundred pages or so are about their decision to make the move, descriptions of the community where they live in China, their adjustments to living there and about the different tours and vacations they take within the country. He gives such interesting descriptions and points of view, that it's easy to see why he won the Columnist of the Year award for his Wall Street Journal columns on expat life in China. (Another project while he was there).
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I thoroughly enjoyed 'Big In China' - journalist Alan Paul's tale of his expatriate experiences in China with wife Rebecca Blumenstein (posted there as China bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal) and their three young children. I agree with the spotlight reviewer: Paul's book would make an excellent movie - not because of drama and angst. Far from it. Instead, such a film would capture the magic of the serendipitous life twist that comes with the trip. Namely, that Paul - a writer about musicians by vocation - forms a band that becomes big in China. As a musician, Paul's dream is to form a "blues and jam band" that plays a "loose but tight" style. His band Woodie Alan (great name) - a true Sino-American partnership - becomes known as Beijing's best.

The author makes it sound like that success was due to luck, good fortune and a lot of meeting the right people. His chance encounter with the band's co-founder, Woodie Wu, being example A-1. There's a lot of that, for sure. But Alan Paul is also someone with a self-deprecating, wear-the-cape-lightly manner. His forthrightness in calling himself the 'trailing spouse' throughout the book is a testament to his nature. So, rest assured, there's doggedness and intelligence behind his Chinese success, too. He's just not the type to have to call attention to that.

Paul's easy, descriptive writing style is a joy to read. He takes you on an incredible journey. Couldn't have happened to a nicer or more well-deserving family.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a terrific memoir from a freelance journalist whose wife was transferred to Beijing to head the China bureau of the Wall Street Journal. Author Alan Paul, his wife Becky and their three young children lived in China for nearly four years. What began as a great and scary adventure ended up being all that and more, as the family became attached to their host nation and its people, as well as to several other Western families who were part of their expat community.

While Becky went to her office most days and the kids were either at school or in the care of a nanny, Paul did house husband things like grocery shopping and wrote columns for several music magazines, with which he had an established relationship going back many years. He also began to reinvigorate his own performance career by organizing a jazz/blues band composed of Western and Chinese members. As the band got better and better they became quite popular in Beijing and environs, eventually being voted the best band in Beijing and getting as many bookings as they could reasonably play -- sometimes two or three in a week. Paul tells some very funny stories about how he and his group became "big in China," which is the origin of the book's title.

Paul also tells some good tales about his friends, wife and kids and how they adapted to Chinese customs, food and lifestyles. The family had open minds about everything that they came across, which seems to me to have enhanced their experiences in China a great deal. I very much enjoyed reading about the markets, foods, pastimes and other facets of Chinese culture that are under reported or ignored by most mass media outlets.
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Format: Hardcover
I have to say that when I started to read Alan Paul's book I was skeptical and afraid. I've read books and articles about China, and sometimes they reminded me of the story " The Blind Men and the Elephant." They only scratched the surface and already started to claim what China really is (I'm from China). Paul's book is different. He's sincere about his good and bad feelings as an expat in a completely different country, a country with a rich history and different lifestyles. I've watched him on The Today Show and listened to his music, which I enjoyed very much. And my liking for his book started to accumulate as I read more and more Big In China. I admire him as both a father and a husband who dares to take a leap of faith with his family and delve into a new world at a not-so-young age. "The future no longer seemed limitless as I approached my fortieth birthday," he wrote. Yet he was bold and wise enough to come to a decision that brought him a limitless future. I was especially sad and moved when I read about his father going through a surgery. Being so faraway from home, he's extremely worried, struggled and helpless...He's a strong person and a good writer, I'd recommend this book to people who're interested in an expat's life or in China.
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