Photo by Kathryn Huang

I have continued to receive consistent, sporadic, heartfelt emails from people who read Big in China and were moved enough to find my website and write me a note. They mean a lot to me.

Writing can be a lonely task. You sit in some little room staring at your computer screen, trying to capture some elusive feelings or idea, to tell a story and hope it resonates. It is very gratifying to receive confirmation from out of the ether that the process has worked even once. 

Below are three recent examples. One of the things that moved me was how different each readers’ background and situation was. I am particularly pleased to know the book is available in Australian libraries.

Thank you Alicia, Daniel and Vivienne, for reading, for taking the time to write and for allowing me to post your notes.


I have never written to an author before, but I am listening to you read *Big in China* on audiobook right now (mostly on my way to and from picking up/dropping off my kids from daycare!), and I had to let you know how perfectly timed your book has been for me. My husband and I met while teaching in Honduras, then spent 4 years teaching in Jakarta, Indonesia, which is where our two daughters were born. We have been back in the Chicago suburbs for five years and are ready for another overseas adventure.

My family, however, is really upset and is accusing us of being selfish by taking the kids away from them, etc. etc. I started feeling despondent, and even self-doubting, wondering if maybe it would be a selfish mistake to go overseas again. I started listening to your book 2 weeks after telling my family about our plans, and it has really bolstered my memories of our previous experiences overseas, and reinforced my belief that overseas travel and living IS a valuable experience for kids (ours are 5 and 7).

I recognized so much of our experiences in your tales of China, from the “western soap opera-style” over-the-top housing compounds also located throughout Jakarta, and finding random goodies like PBR in a dusty rural outpost somewhere. So, thank you for writing your book and thank you for eloquently describing the wonder, joy and insanity that is life abroad.

All the best, Alicia Duell


My wife and I could identify so well with the book. We are just starting our second year in Mexico after moving from Canada. We are not in any tourist, nor resort area. San Luis Potosi is a tough manufacturing town.

So many of your experiences are similar to ours, it brought tears & laughter …..sometimes all at once.

Enjoyed your account immensely!

Thanks for taking the time to write it.

-Daniel Sheppard

Hi Alan
I borrowed your book from the local library here in Ipswich Australia. I am loving it and intend to tell all my friends who have lived as ex pats in Asia about it. I’m particularly interested in it because I teach English to Chinese meat workers and love to hear the other side of the story. Thanks for sharing it. All the best

-Vivienne Cole

1 reply
  1. Alicia Duell
    Alicia Duell says:

    Thanks for the post, Alan. Big in China really has been one of those definitive books for me– as I’ve said before, nothing has ever come close to capturing the beauty and the heartbreak that is living life abroad.


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