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Hong Konged: One Modern American Family's (Mis)adventures in the Gateway to China Hardcover – July 18, 2012
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"A neurotic American father of three relocates his family to Hong Kong for one year.
"Hanstedt (General Education Essentials: A Guide for College Faculty, 2012), an English professor and editor of the Roanoke Review, is no stranger to international travel, having visited 30 countries on four continents. But living in Asia on a Fulbright exchange program for 12 months became a challenge of epic proportions for him, his wife, Ellen, and their three kids, 9-year-old Will, 6-year-old Lucy and 3-year-old Jamie, whose bright, distinctive personalities are on full display. Though their first few days abroad were marred with the death of Ellen's father, the family trudged on with wide-eyed excitement at the cross-cultural opportunity unfolding before them. From navigating the subway system to procuring palatable food for picky kids in Kowloon restaurants, the culture clash began immediately. The author excitedly dictates stories of rocky junk rides, pedestrian dangers and space issues inside their temporary home, situated 20 minutes from China's border, and he balances the inconveniences with pages of familial history and beautifully described scenery. When Will got bullied, Hanstedt drew on his own painful moments of tortured life at school; in the final pages, he tenderly reflects on Jamie's incremental growth while in China from a baby to a vibrant toddler.
"Through text that reads like dynamic blog material and flows with the hyperactive flare of an anxious father of three, the narrative moves along seamlessly with enthusiasm, parental trepidation and a healthy dose of sardonic humor."
Kirkus Reviews, June 15 2012
"We know plenty of fellow parents who daydream about living abroad with their young kids for a year, and more than a few who have done it, but we've never been so entertained by the stories of culture clash, unexpected pleasures, and coping with homesickness as we are by Paul's memoir. His eye for the telling detail of living in strange surroundings (daughter Lucy reveling in a bowl of chicken heads) combined with his heart-on-his-sleeve rendering of his kids' experiences gives us a book that is heartfelt, funny, and fast-paced."
Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers
About the Author
Paul Hanstedt has been a professor of English and creative writing for fifteen years and is the editor of the national literary journal The Roanoke Review. His work has appeared in Puerto Del Sol, Confrontation, Writing on the Edge, the Beloit Fiction Journal, MLA's The Profession, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Brain, Child, for which he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He's the author of General Education Essentials: A Guide for College Faculty and is also a staple on the Virginia Public Radio station WVTF, with a listening audience of 160,000. He currently lives in Virginia.
Top Customer Reviews
I Want a Wife I noted as well. None too surprising, just as I was assessing what strengthened this marriage, right there on page 132 Paul got to summing up just what I was thinking. A give and take partnership is what made this relationship work. Other chapters that resonated; the wonton soup incident... and not for the simplicity of the tale getting a little boy to eat soup that really wasn't that hot, but for the way the story is doted on, clarifying the dexterity of these noodles, and the exchange between he and his wife, the staring family, and taking the script all the way to an ending I found as humorous as it was endearing.
I found the friend's analogy on helping Paul and Ellen settle Will and Lucy in school also inspiring. Very inspiring in fact. And there is more... much more, such as the bullying incident(s), the birthday party, the Jade Chapter, along with the sights and sounds, the historical takes, the cultural perspectives (tastefully and respectfully enmeshed throughout the book); and if this is too much, then I must not omit the illustration of Hong Kong's rich tapestry, and plenty of photos to substantiate it all.
I could go on and on describing these vividly wonderful chunks of stories rapt inside one superbly pleasing book--but to wrap things up nicely, this is one of the best books I've read this year! I highly recommend reading it.
I was not disappointed. Paul's writing has a way of weaving you into the experience. I could feel the heat and humidity, taste the food, enjoy the scenery... as well as feel their stress when coping with the challenges of living so far away from everything they truly know with three small children in tow.
The most surprising element of the book to me was how this experience allowed Paul a clearer glimps of who his children truly are. I would consider that the priceless benefit of the whole trip.
I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to all.
I think it worked for me because the author doesn't try to glorify either child rearing or his Asian adventures. Instead he finds the hangdog humor in trying to travel overseas with sometimes difficult kids in tow. His descriptions of the people and the scenery they come across are beautifully rendered, frequently laugh out loud funny and I'm guessing give you a realistic impression of Hong Kong through an American visitor's eyes. And his portraiture of the three children (yes, as other reviews have pointed out, he does spend a good deal of time writing about the kids) is refreshingly honest. It's an idiosyncratic brood and Hanstedt himself comes across as a bit of a curmudgeon at times trying to deal with them -- like Mr. Wilson traveling with Dennis the Menace. Also, he seems to obsess about all the various catastrophes that could befall his family, so far from home and vulnerable. But I found that aspect of his narration really funny, mostly because I can relate to it. And fortunately nothing really bad comes to pass. At least nothing that you couldn't later laugh about in a book.
Anyway, if you're looking for a straight up travelogue then, as other reviews have mentioned, this probably isn't for you. But if you're looking for an entertaining memoir (the Hong Kong backdrop being mostly incidental) then I highly recommend.
Paul Hanstedt, his wife, and their three children under the age of 10, live in Hong Kong for one year, for Paul's job. This book tells their story, and at the same time includes bits of history about Hong Kong and China.
Sometimes memoirs can be overly sweet with perfect endings. But this travel memoir had the perfect balance, in my opinion. There is humor - a few times I laughed out loud, but I appreciated that it is also very realistic. The Hanstedt family is not perfect, it was a rough adjustment for the kids, and at times life in Hong Kong wasn't pretty. Including the bad along with the good made this book even better than I expected it to be.
I would recommend this book to those who enjoy travel memoirs, or who are interested in learning more about Hong Kong.
What this book is really about, though, and what made it so cogent for me, was the honesty and insight (despite the exaggerations) shown by the author about his family relationships and the personalities of his children. The portraits he draws of all three of the children, enhanced and focused by the photographs selected as illustrations, are absolutely enthralling. He succeeds brilliantly in making those vignette experiences he describes bring to life not only the delights and challenges of their experiences in Hong Kong, but also the nitty-gritty of parenting whatever the circumstances.
I could go on and on about the importance of this book in terms of focusing the tremendous contribution Hanstead has made not only to the lexicon on creative parenting, but also to international understanding. However, to me that is not really as important as the fact that it is a delightful read, fast paced, rich in detail, and thoroughly sympathetic in a way that is valuable for anyone who has ever raised a family in less-than-ideal but nevertheless extremely exciting circumstances. I really, really liked it!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Enjoyable, casual writing style. Great family stores from a fascinating city. Quick read.Published 23 months ago by Don Carufel-Wert
The title accurately represents what this book is about. If you bought this book because you thought it was a travel guide, please don't complain about it here.Published on February 24, 2014 by Happy Bunnies Go Fluff Fluff
I was disappointed in this book; I learned much more than I wanted to know about the author's difficult children and much less than I wanted to know about Hong Kong.Published on November 5, 2013 by Amazonian
This book has such a sweet and caring tone of some wild and fun adventures a family has living in Hong Kong. It is written by a funny and clever writer/father. Read morePublished on May 15, 2013 by Amber FLYNN
I'm a huge fan of travel narratives but ordinarily find them lacking. Often the author's voice is insufferable, making them seem boring or snobby or I can't relate to them. Read morePublished on April 23, 2013 by J. Hauer
Having lived overseas myself for 2+ years, it is great to see how others lived their lives overseas too. Read morePublished on March 27, 2013 by Lynn Ellingwood
I loved this book. Those who complain that it's not about Hong Kong are right; it's about one family's (mis)adventures in Hong Kong. Read morePublished on January 31, 2013 by Duncan Richter
Disclaimer: Paul lives up the street from me here in Lexington. Our kids go to the same schools.
An adventure is an exciting or unusual experience; it may also be a... Read more