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Home is a Roof Over a Pig: An American Family's Journey in China Hardcover – July 5, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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

About 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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: The Overlook Press; 1 edition (July 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590208994
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590208991
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,102,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Aminta Arrington is a graduate of The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and has lived in China with her family since 2006. She has previously written for The Seattle Times and China Daily.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Bill Driscoll on July 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book has several notable achievements.
1. The chapters are based on Chinese characters. Each chapter has a character as a theme. This works well, because that's how Chinese people process information. It's how they think. (I've lived in China the past four years, and the pictograph-based language is really fascinating.) It's basic enough so that you don't have to be student of Chinese language to follow the concept.
2. The depiction of one family's culture-shock and gradual adjustment to life in a small provincial town is full of grace and humor. It illustrates the warmth and humanity of Chinese people beautifully.
3. The description of how the Chinese exam-based education system discourages critical, inquiry-based thinking is excellent. The book follows several college students, showing how their thinking process, based on what they have come to understand as "truth" is gently challenged by the author over hot-button issues like the Western media, Dalai Lama, Taiwan, Communism. It shows how life can be easier and simpler for Chinese students if they don't question received truth. With empathy and patience, the author encourages her students to take "baby steps" in critical inquiry, while concurrently validating and honoring their individual processes. Reading this has given me a better understanding of the striking information gap between average people in China and our pro-democracy based Western concepts.
The book is full of wonderful insights and anecdotes. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne Amara TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
For a reason I am not sure of, but like many people around the world, I am fascinated with China. I've read probably hundreds of Chinese memoirs, both of the lives of the Chinese and the lives of those who are drawn to China and go to live there. This book was the first time I've read of a family that truly embraced living in China, and in fact still lives there.

Aminta Arrington and her husband Chris have three children. The middle one, Grace, was adopted from China. Often, I know, those with Chinese adopted children strive to give them some Chinese culture, but the Arringtons went a step beyond---they went to live in China, in a small city where they both taught English and their young children attended a Chinese kindergarten. This book tells of a very ordinary life in China, but it is an extraordinary life in its ordinariness. Most Americans in China live the ex-pat life, in complexes, their children going to international schools, their contacts with actual regular Chinese people rare. This family lived in a regular small apartment, sent their kids to learn Chinese by going to school where that was all that was spoken, shopped where the Chinese did, and lived as they did. They became one of the community. It was a remarkable thing to do, to really understand the life their daughter would have had had she stayed in China.

The book also is fascinating when it talks about Chinese words and characters, and how they give insight into the thinking of the Chinese. Arrington, in her teaching, also encounters the vastly different view of the Chinese about various political issues and about concepts like freedom.

I hope there is another book about this family, now that they live in Beijing and their children are older. They seem like remarkable people.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rose from Colorado on August 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved this book both as a "cultural" travelogue and as a sneak peek into the everyday life and thoughts of the average Chinese. Arrington's many insights include: Why the Chinese asks so few questions? What is the evolution and meaning of some Chinese written characters? How do the Chinese view Western criticism of the Tibet demonstrations or the one-child policy? What was life like for Arrington's daughter's first year as an infant, living with a foster family in a poor provincial village? But mostly I admire Arrington and her family's flexibility when faced with a daunting move to China to teach English and connect with her adopted daughter's culture and language. The everyday inconvenience of living in a small cramped, way-to-tiny apartment, to lack of heat until the government turns it on, to the not having American food readily available. It all makes this book unique. This is delightfully well-written and is a must read for anyone who plans to move to China.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bic on September 24, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book and it was a fast read. A family adopts a Chinese girl and, rather than rob her of her Chinese culture, the whole family moves to China to live and work there. Having traveled to China myself, I found the descriptions to be particularly clear. Of note, are the details on how quickly young children do and do not pick up a new language. I was impressed by the author's explanations of the Chinese written characters as the glue to tie the book together.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Louis Petrillo on August 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a most lovely read for anyone who is interested in:
1. teaching English in China
2. adopting a Chinese child
3. learning Chinese characters
My wife is Chinese from Nanchang where Anniston's daughter was adopted. Every time we've gone there we've met American couples who had adopted Chinese children. We also met people who were teaching English; one was from Cameroon.
This book is in the line of those by Peter Hessler, John Pomfret, and Jan Wong: easy "popular" introductions to contemporary China.
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