I’m just fascinated by stories of families who pack up everything and move to another country to live. When Aminta Arrington married her husband, Chris, he had two teenage sons, and he was career military. But, it wasn’t until he retired from the army that they packed up their three youngest children, all under five, and moved to China to teach. Home is a Roof Over a Pig is Arrington’s memoir of their family experiences in China.
Chris and Aminta adopted their second daughter, Grace, from China. And, from the time the couple lived in Japan, Aminta had been fascinated by the Chinese language, both written and oral. That fascination led to the the title of this book. The character for home is a combination of the symbol for roof over the symbol for pig. But, that fascination, and a daughter from China, led her to pick that country, when Chris said he’d now move where she wanted to go. Through a small organization, Educational Resources & Referrals – China (ERRC), the couple were able to obtain teaching positions at a small college, Taishan Medical College in Shandong province.
Arrington’s relates the story of their struggles to adapt, and their success in becoming part of the neighborhood. She was afraid they might have made a mistake when their oldest daughter, Katherine, a self-sufficient, willful child, had a hard time adapting. She was an individual child in a country that valued conformity, and it took her a while to learn the language and to fit in. While the two younger children immediately found their places in their school, it wasn’t until Katherine made a friend or two, learned the language, and could become the boss again that she was comfortable there. But, the entire family had to learn to understand the history and culture of China.
Aminta Arrington’s memoir is a fascinating combination of family life, combined with Chinese customs and culture. She truly wanted to understand why her adult students believed what they did, and she worked hard to understand their world. In fact, Aminta Arrington and her family continue to try to understand the Chinese world. After four years teaching in Shandong province, they moved to Beijing, where they experienced an entirely different life in the large city. Those may be events for a future book. This book covers their initial years becoming part of a community, and finding a home in China. It’s rich in details of daily life for the Arringtons, along with glimpses into the lives of Arrington’s friends and students.
July 4th may seem a strange day to review a book set in China. But, our independence and lifestyle is what enables a family to take the step to move to another country, discovering a different culture, while sharing ours. Home is a Roof Over a Pig is Aminta Arrington’s love letter to China, a country she has grown to love and call home. And, for those of us who call the United States home, it’s a glimpse into a world and culture told by someone who successfully bridges two worlds.
Aminta Arrington’s website is www.amintaarrington.com
Home is a Roof Over a Pig by Aminta Arrington. Overlook Press. 2012. ISBN 9781590208991 (hardcover), 320p