Even if you've never dreamed of becoming China's most popular blues guitarist, you'll find much to enjoy in Alan Paul's very engaging memoir of the four years he spent as frontman for the Woodie Alan band. In 2004, Paul's wife, Rebecca, accepted the Wall Street Journal's foreign office desk in Beijing. Paul, a blogger and contributor to American music magazines, assumed the role of house dad for their small children and organized a band with three talented Chinese musicians. His passion for music matched theirs, and the band took off, winning acclaim all over China for their versions of American blues standards and their East/West fusion numbers.
Paul is an adventurous and goodhearted storyteller. As an ex-pat, he is well aware of what he calls "our fake rich lifestyle" and tries to explain it to his children. While he enjoys his life at the Beijing Riviera, he almost immediately buys a bicycle and ventures out to the small markets and neighborhoods that dot the city's periphery. The Chinese lifestyle delights him. He learns enough Chinese to chat with people he meets, and we hear plenty about the food.
Practically the only moment when he comes down from an almost constant high is when his father in New Jersey suggests that he "get back to reality." Paul objects to this: "There were a million different possibilities, and no one could convince me that our life wasn't real." "Big in China" is a very upbeat take on staying open to such possibilities.