Home is a Roof Over a Pig

Home is a Roof Over a Pig

An American Family’s Journey in China

Additional Formats
  • Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781590208991
  • 320 Pages
  • Overlook Books
  • Adult


When all-American Aminta Arrington moves from suburban Georgia to a small town in China, she doesn’t go alone. Her army husband and three young children, including an adopted Chinese daughter, uproot themselves too. Aminta hopes to understand the country with its long civilization, ancient philosophy, and complex language. She is also determined that her daughter Grace, born in China, regain some of the culture she lost when the Arringtons brought her to America as a baby.

In the university town of Tai’an, a small city where pigs’ hooves are available at the local supermarket, donkeys share the road with cars, and the warm-hearted locals welcome this strange looking foreign family, the Arringtons settle in . . . but not at first. Aminta teaches at the university, not realizing she is countering the propaganda the students had memorized for years. Her creative, independent (and loud) American children chafe in their classrooms, the first rung in society’s effort to ensure conformity. The family is bewildered by the seemingly endless cultural differences they face, but they find their way. With humor and unexpectedly moving moments, Aminta’s story is appealingly reminiscent of Reading Lolita in Tehran. It will rivet anyone who is thinking of adopting a child, or anyone who is already familiar with the experience. An everywoman with courage and acute cultural perspective, Aminta recounts this transformative quest with a freshness that will delight anyone looking for an original, accessible point of view on the new China.


"Home Is a Roof Over a Pig is a brutally honest and fascinating peek at life for an American family living in a foreign country. I was engrossed in the story as Arrington used her humor, and ultimately understanding and flexibility to survive, realize, and eventually love the contradictory land of China."
–Kay Bratt, bestselling author of Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage

"The power of Aminta Arrington’s Home Is a Roof Over a Pig is you can see both sides of the ‘China coin’ from it–something most people won’t get just by traveling through, or only by hearing about China in Western languages. Read it, it will help you dip into the real China."–Xinran, author of The Good Women of China

"American teacher Arrington (editor, Saving Grandmother’s Face) nicely demystifies the Chinese language for English speakers in this down-to-earth memoir chronicling her family’s stint in the Chinese province of Shandong on the eve of the Beijing Olympics."–Publishers Weekly
"A military wife turned ESL instructor’s sharp-eyed account of how the adoption of a Chinese baby girl led to her family’s life-changing decision to live and work in rural China . . . candid and heartfelt."–Kirkus

"A fresh, illuminating look at contemporary China." –Booklist

"Her chronicle of their adventures with the language and with the local culture and characters presents intimate glimpses of the profoundly different ideology and philosophy that underlie the quotidian Chinese experience—and of the essential human kindness that can transcend those differences." –National Geographic Traveler

"This book captivated me through vivid accounts of everyday life in China from an American’s viewpoint. The refreshing insights stirred an appreciation and fascination in me for the Chinese people and their culture. As we shape our cultural identity in the increasingly global context, Aminta Arrington inspires us to broaden our understanding."–Yakima Herald

"Arrington is a sunny (‘cynicism and I cannot breathe the same air’) and energetic guide to today’s China—where Volvos glide among donkey carts and the Kitchen God coexists with Marxism. It is here that Arrington—while seeking out her daughter’s roots—also discovers ‘the person I was created to be.’"–Christian Science Monitor Weekly