Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Book Review: "Big in China: My Unlikely Adventure Raising a Family, Playing the Blues, and Becoming a Star in Beijing" by Alan Paul

This month ex-pat reads takes us to China. 

Our author is a (for lack of a better word) "trailing spouse". His wife is offered the job of bureau cheif in Beijing for the Wall Street Journal. Alan is a freelance writer for Guitar World, and other magazines and can work from anywhere, so after a lot of though they pack up their kids and move to China. 

After being there for a little while Alan finds himself in need of a guitar repair, which sets off a whole series of unexpected events. He meets up with a Chinese musician who also loves the Allman Brothers, and he knows an American who works for the Treasury Department who plays the sax and they start a super casual little bluesy band. But then it gets more serious and they have an actual band on their hands, that's actually doing really well!

The book is about how Alan balances parenting, the expat experience, work, and being in Beijing's premier English and Mandrain singing blues band, Woodie Alan (haha).

The downside to this book was that I wasn't particularly well informed about the music that they were playing. I mean, the Allman Brothers yes, but they mention a lot of the songs they play just by name and it seems like people are just supposed to know what it is. Though, if you are picking this up you are a blues fan and DO know all of these songs. It doesn't take away from the appeal of the book, but it might have added something to be able to hear the music in my head when they talked about the songs. (Author should make a Spotify/Pandora list and put the address in the front so you can listen while you read.)

My favorite parts of this book was the interesting insights to the expat life in a foreign country especially in their little expat compound. I'm glad that they got out and experienced all the different times of China (rural, urban, poor, wealthier) because it seems like it would be pretty easy to stay in the comfortable expat zone with all of the other Westerners coaching what sounded like, the most multicultural little kid soccer team ever). 


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