Big in China by Alan Paul
The Kirkus Review
A man’s serendipitous rise from writer to rock star in China.
In his debut memoir, Guitar World senior writer Paul recounts the bizarre chain of events that allowed him to achieve his American Dream overseas. When his wife was promoted to China's bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, the author gathered his family and transplanted from New Jersey to Beijing to support her career. Having grown restless in their suburban life, the family left their old world behind. While Paul’s tale is weighted with the typical tropes of the travelogue (cultural and translation snafus, among others), the book's high point is the author’s ability to "hit the reboot button on [his] life” and benefit from his decision. He soon became the guitarist and vocalist for a Chinese blues band, Woodie Alan (according to one MC, “Beijing's best band”), and their popularity took off, granting him a degree of fame he could have never imagined in America. Paul acknowledges that he and his Chinese band mates were a “novelty act,” yet they drew crowds in the thousands. While in China, the author continued searching for glimpses of home, exploring the paradox of leaving a place in order to call it home upon your return. After Paul's father endured a bout with cancer, Paul writes that “the romanticism of being on the other side of the world vanished in an instant,” leading him to understand that distance is irrelevant to the heart.A charming exploration of an expat's unlikely rise to fame, as well as the lessons learned along the way.