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Hong Konged: One Modern American Family's (Mis)adventures in the Gateway to China

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In this alternately hilarious and heartrending memoir, acclaimed writer and editor Paul Hanstedt recounts the true story of his family's recent sojourn to Hong Kong. Hanstedt and his wife and three children--aged 9, 6, and 3--lived in Hong Kong for a year, a year beset by culture clash, vicious bullies, hospital visits, M&Ms, and the worst traffic jam you've ever seen. Thro In this alternately hilarious and heartrending memoir, acclaimed writer and editor Paul Hanstedt recounts the true story of his family's recent sojourn to Hong Kong. Hanstedt and his wife and three children--aged 9, 6, and 3--lived in Hong Kong for a year, a year beset by culture clash, vicious bullies, hospital visits, M&Ms, and the worst traffic jam you've ever seen. Through the eyes of the earnest if sometimes clueless Hanstedt family, you'll discover a world you've never known before. But in the end, Hong Konged is about place and family and what it is that makes us human--no matter who we are or where we live.


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In this alternately hilarious and heartrending memoir, acclaimed writer and editor Paul Hanstedt recounts the true story of his family's recent sojourn to Hong Kong. Hanstedt and his wife and three children--aged 9, 6, and 3--lived in Hong Kong for a year, a year beset by culture clash, vicious bullies, hospital visits, M&Ms, and the worst traffic jam you've ever seen. Thro In this alternately hilarious and heartrending memoir, acclaimed writer and editor Paul Hanstedt recounts the true story of his family's recent sojourn to Hong Kong. Hanstedt and his wife and three children--aged 9, 6, and 3--lived in Hong Kong for a year, a year beset by culture clash, vicious bullies, hospital visits, M&Ms, and the worst traffic jam you've ever seen. Through the eyes of the earnest if sometimes clueless Hanstedt family, you'll discover a world you've never known before. But in the end, Hong Konged is about place and family and what it is that makes us human--no matter who we are or where we live.

30 review for Hong Konged: One Modern American Family's (Mis)adventures in the Gateway to China

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    Paul Hanstedt's family did what mine has always been too chicken to do. They packed up their three young children and their perfectly good life in Virginia and set off on a yearlong adventure in Hong Kong. What a year it was, and not in the ways one might imagine, because Hanstedt doesn't pull any punches here. There are transcendent moments on a junk in Victoria Harbour, in a Buddhist temple in Cambodia, in a dozen places you'll wish you could transport yourself to so you could share the advent Paul Hanstedt's family did what mine has always been too chicken to do. They packed up their three young children and their perfectly good life in Virginia and set off on a yearlong adventure in Hong Kong. What a year it was, and not in the ways one might imagine, because Hanstedt doesn't pull any punches here. There are transcendent moments on a junk in Victoria Harbour, in a Buddhist temple in Cambodia, in a dozen places you'll wish you could transport yourself to so you could share the adventure. But there is also vomiting, bullying, boredom--in short, there is parenting. In fact, it's the parenting part that ends up being the real charm of this book, especially for readers who may be in the midst of those challenging, fleeting years themselves. You'll find yourself laughing one moment and devastated the next because Hanstedt has both a sharp sense of humor and a pointed command of language, an ability to bring out the beauty in not just the scenery, but the mundane (and not so mundane) travails of family life. Hong Konged is the story of one year in one family, but it's also the universal story of family, a story that I found ultimately turned back at me. I often found myself nodding along--yeah, that's just how it is.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Elise

    2.5*

  3. 5 out of 5

    Cat Chiappa

    This book was disappointing. There were parts that were heartwarming and funny, but overall I found it to be very disjointed. I found it to be less of a tale of family's time living abroad and more of a lengthy description of how the author feels about each of his children. I was especially hopeful for the second part of the book, which started out well (and described the families travels) but then the author went back to discussing his kids and their personalities. I found there were a lot of l This book was disappointing. There were parts that were heartwarming and funny, but overall I found it to be very disjointed. I found it to be less of a tale of family's time living abroad and more of a lengthy description of how the author feels about each of his children. I was especially hopeful for the second part of the book, which started out well (and described the families travels) but then the author went back to discussing his kids and their personalities. I found there were a lot of loose ends. Why was Lucy unhappy at school...did they ever figure it out? Did the author apply for the German job...and did he get it. He also should have defined what he was doing in Hong Kong a bit more to give more context to the beginning. The only good thing about this book is that it gave me a small insight into Hong Kong which I appreciated as I think I might be visiting there in a couple of months.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

    What Hanstedt captures here is at once a loving family portrait, a meditation on the experience of being a stranger in a strange land, and the moral dilemma of understanding that his circumstances set him apart from the human struggle he sees all around him and yet his near-powerlessness to do anything about it but grapple with the ache of knowing. And it is funny. And poignant. And real in a way that makes your heart start ticking differently. For anyone who's ever traveled abroad, with or with What Hanstedt captures here is at once a loving family portrait, a meditation on the experience of being a stranger in a strange land, and the moral dilemma of understanding that his circumstances set him apart from the human struggle he sees all around him and yet his near-powerlessness to do anything about it but grapple with the ache of knowing. And it is funny. And poignant. And real in a way that makes your heart start ticking differently. For anyone who's ever traveled abroad, with or without family in tow, or for those who would like to someday, Hong Konged offers a glimpse into the a mind of a conscientious traveler, someone for whom the experience of learning - about his surroundings and about himself - leaves him forever changed.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alisa Kester

    Some of the descriptions were really beautiful, but most of the time the author was just a bit annoying. Plus, the entire book felt like a bunch of blog posts hap-hazardly strung together. Events were oddly out of order, and often you never found out the ending to stories.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cassandra

    I have a thirst for traveling but cannot take a trip at the moment. Instead, I browsed the library and found a stack of travel memoirs. At least with a book, I can live vicariously through someone else! I have been to both Taiwan and China, so I thought that a book about Hong Kong would be right up my alley. Hong Konged's subtitle is "One Modern American Family's (Mis)adventures in the Gateway to China." I was expecting a rather linear narrative of why Hong Kong, traveling to Hong Kong, settling I have a thirst for traveling but cannot take a trip at the moment. Instead, I browsed the library and found a stack of travel memoirs. At least with a book, I can live vicariously through someone else! I have been to both Taiwan and China, so I thought that a book about Hong Kong would be right up my alley. Hong Konged's subtitle is "One Modern American Family's (Mis)adventures in the Gateway to China." I was expecting a rather linear narrative of why Hong Kong, traveling to Hong Kong, settling in, adventures while living in Hong Kong, and lessons learned from living a full year in another culture. Instead, like another Goodreads reviewer stated, the book was mostly the author's thoughts and observations about how each of his three children adapted and grew while living in a foreign country. I can see why Paul Hanstedt is an editor. Some of his writing is fantastic, making me feel as if I was back in China and also able to vividly imagine the smells, textures, and sounds of Hong Kong. The food descriptions were amazing. However, I wish the book was more cohesive. I could tell that the narrative was jumping around but didn't realize just how much until two stories from the same day were told chapters apart. I wanted to experience (through someone else's eyes) what it was like to learn to live in another country but felt as if this story was incomplete. The book was tantalizing and made me want to travel even more. But it wasn't the telling that I was hoping for.

  7. 4 out of 5

    RYCJ

    This is some fine storytelling here. Many chapters were my favorites, but those I paused to note were 'A Day at the B*tch, B*tch, B*tch...' (...And I assume Beach was swapped out for the latter string of words). But, oh, how vivid...(both the stares I imagined Paul and Ellen received having to reprimand their children in public, and as well the chuckle I enjoyed with Paul by the end of this beach trip). Too funny. I Want a Wife I noted as well. None too surprising, just as I was assessing what st This is some fine storytelling here. Many chapters were my favorites, but those I paused to note were 'A Day at the B*tch, B*tch, B*tch...' (...And I assume Beach was swapped out for the latter string of words). But, oh, how vivid...(both the stares I imagined Paul and Ellen received having to reprimand their children in public, and as well the chuckle I enjoyed with Paul by the end of this beach trip). Too funny. I Want a Wife I noted as well. None too surprising, just as I was assessing what strengthened this marriage, right there on page 132 Paul got to summing up just what I was thinking. A give and take partnership is what made this relationship work. Other chapters that resonated; the wonton soup incident... and not for the simplicity of the tale getting a little boy to eat soup that really wasn't that hot, but for the way the story is doted on, clarifying the dexterity of these noodles, and the exchange between he and his wife, the staring family, and taking the script all the way to an ending I found as humorous as it was endearing. I found the friend's analogy on helping Paul and Ellen settle Will and Lucy in school also inspiring. Very inspiring in fact. And there is more... much more, such as the bullying incident(s), the birthday party, the Jade Chapter, along with the sights and sounds, the historical takes, the cultural perspectives (tastefully and respectfully enmeshed throughout the book); and if this is too much, then I must not omit the illustration of Hong Kong's rich tapestry, and plenty of photos to substantiate it all. I could go on and on describing these vividly wonderful chunks of stories rapt inside one superbly pleasing book--but to wrap things up nicely, this is one of the best I've read this year! I highly recommend reading it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nancy H

    What a great memoir of Paul Hanstedt and his family's year in Hong Kong. It is a good story, but even more, it showcases a family who is brave enough to visit another culture, one very different than what they are used to, and demonstrates how it is possible to survive and thrive - with three small children. Alternately poignant and hilarious, the story is intriguing and compelling, and hard to put down. Kudos to Paul and Ellen for their courage, strength, and open-mindedness to raising their ch What a great memoir of Paul Hanstedt and his family's year in Hong Kong. It is a good story, but even more, it showcases a family who is brave enough to visit another culture, one very different than what they are used to, and demonstrates how it is possible to survive and thrive - with three small children. Alternately poignant and hilarious, the story is intriguing and compelling, and hard to put down. Kudos to Paul and Ellen for their courage, strength, and open-mindedness to raising their children with a world view.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    A writer friend in Hong Kong recently told me about Paul Hanstedt's new memoir, so I quickly bumped it to the top of my to-read list. This one really resonated with me because I also lived on the same campus as the Hanstedt family and through his writing felt like I was back in Hong Kong. I sympathized with his character and appreciated all he did to expose his kids to another culture. His kids seemed to get a ton out of their year in Hong Kong. What a treat. Hanstedt writes with humor and humili A writer friend in Hong Kong recently told me about Paul Hanstedt's new memoir, so I quickly bumped it to the top of my to-read list. This one really resonated with me because I also lived on the same campus as the Hanstedt family and through his writing felt like I was back in Hong Kong. I sympathized with his character and appreciated all he did to expose his kids to another culture. His kids seemed to get a ton out of their year in Hong Kong. What a treat. Hanstedt writes with humor and humility, a great combination for a memoirist. He continually kept my attention. Although I chose this book because of the Hong Kong setting (which he describes beautifully), I also enjoyed reading about his family's trips to Vietnam, Cambodia, Kuala Lumpur, and a slew of places in mainland China. I found myself laughing out loud in many places, and reading through tears during the Tiananmen chapter. This is the perfect book for a young family that's thinking of moving overseas for any amount of time, or a former expat like me who likes to read about other people's experiences abroad.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jacki

    While it was interesting to learn about the author's children and patenting style, that's mostly what the book ended up being about. There's bits and pieces in there characterizing the sights of Hong Kong, parts of China, and a few other places, but there is not much to learn from this book about the character of these counties. That said, the author does have an engaging style that made the book rather difficult to put down at times. And if I ever end up having children, I know I'll end up stea While it was interesting to learn about the author's children and patenting style, that's mostly what the book ended up being about. There's bits and pieces in there characterizing the sights of Hong Kong, parts of China, and a few other places, but there is not much to learn from this book about the character of these counties. That said, the author does have an engaging style that made the book rather difficult to put down at times. And if I ever end up having children, I know I'll end up stealing a patenting technique or two from the Hanstedt family. Just be forewarned that this book will not fully satisfy you if you're looking to learn about Hong Kong. Think of this as a light supplement.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Mediocre travel book about a professor who spends a year with his family in Hong Kong. He has many jokes and misconceptions about Hong Kong and doesn't seem to have prepared himself a little a head of time. As a father of three young kids, he finds them having problems in school and while never quite terrible, it is questionable what Hanstedt does to solve the problems. What really struck me what the lack of getting to know people in Hong Kong and everyone but the family being peripheral to the Mediocre travel book about a professor who spends a year with his family in Hong Kong. He has many jokes and misconceptions about Hong Kong and doesn't seem to have prepared himself a little a head of time. As a father of three young kids, he finds them having problems in school and while never quite terrible, it is questionable what Hanstedt does to solve the problems. What really struck me what the lack of getting to know people in Hong Kong and everyone but the family being peripheral to the experience. He may have gone to Hong Kong but without making friends and even trying to for the most part, he lost the most important experience of living abroad.

  12. 4 out of 5

    L

    I usually do not audibly laugh when I read, or even when I hear jokes (except out of courtesy), even when I find something funny. But with this book, I could not hold back the laughter. The rich descriptions and hilarious word choice, accompanied by photographs, combine with the down-to-earth, fatherly narrative in a way that is absolutely tickling. Mere pages later, though, I could be near tears -- the writing is that good. This is a lovingly-told story that captures some of the greatest parts o I usually do not audibly laugh when I read, or even when I hear jokes (except out of courtesy), even when I find something funny. But with this book, I could not hold back the laughter. The rich descriptions and hilarious word choice, accompanied by photographs, combine with the down-to-earth, fatherly narrative in a way that is absolutely tickling. Mere pages later, though, I could be near tears -- the writing is that good. This is a lovingly-told story that captures some of the greatest parts of human life and culture. I loved it, and have not hesitated to recommend this book to all of my reader friends.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Dittmer

    I have recommended this book to lots of people -- friends with kids, friends with kids who travel, and readers who like a "character-driven" book. Paul Hanstedt is a character. He is thoughtful, reflective, poignant, self-deprecating, and often laugh-out-loud funny. He throws himself out there, and is willing to learning something from his experiences abroad. He treats his family members with a gentle respect, appreciating their individual styles and learning something about each of them...and u I have recommended this book to lots of people -- friends with kids, friends with kids who travel, and readers who like a "character-driven" book. Paul Hanstedt is a character. He is thoughtful, reflective, poignant, self-deprecating, and often laugh-out-loud funny. He throws himself out there, and is willing to learning something from his experiences abroad. He treats his family members with a gentle respect, appreciating their individual styles and learning something about each of them...and ultimately himself.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    Hanstedt writes with heart, wit and good humor and his book had me laughing out loud multiple times. If you want a book that puts Hong Kong front and center, this might not be the ideal—it's very much about the family's experience there, right like it says in the title—but it's still a fun read about the city if you're going to or returning from it. And if Hanstedt ever writes another travelogue, I'll be in line to grab it. Hanstedt writes with heart, wit and good humor and his book had me laughing out loud multiple times. If you want a book that puts Hong Kong front and center, this might not be the ideal—it's very much about the family's experience there, right like it says in the title—but it's still a fun read about the city if you're going to or returning from it. And if Hanstedt ever writes another travelogue, I'll be in line to grab it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Fadillah

    I find the tone of this book is a bit obnoxious and pretentious (at least some part of the stories that he wrote in the book). Is this a travel book? Kinda. Is this enough to tell you about Hong Kong? Not really. I went to Hong Kong in 2014 and i can assure you that this book won't help you that much. I did laugh at some part but it's due to the author's experiences of being ignorant. I'm still giving this 3 stars despite it's flaws. I find the tone of this book is a bit obnoxious and pretentious (at least some part of the stories that he wrote in the book). Is this a travel book? Kinda. Is this enough to tell you about Hong Kong? Not really. I went to Hong Kong in 2014 and i can assure you that this book won't help you that much. I did laugh at some part but it's due to the author's experiences of being ignorant. I'm still giving this 3 stars despite it's flaws.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Scott Segerstrom

    This book encapsulates the challenges, comedy, and adventures of parenting through the incredible lens of being immersed into a totally foreign culture. Hanstedt pulls back the curtain on his family's experience masterfully for the reader and by the book's conclusion, Hong Kong becomes the backdrop to an even more compelling story of his family's evolution and development. A wonderful read. This book encapsulates the challenges, comedy, and adventures of parenting through the incredible lens of being immersed into a totally foreign culture. Hanstedt pulls back the curtain on his family's experience masterfully for the reader and by the book's conclusion, Hong Kong becomes the backdrop to an even more compelling story of his family's evolution and development. A wonderful read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    2.5 stars. Some parts were interesting and entertaining. He's a descriptive, often humorous writer, but this book felt too disjointed for me (and some of the stories definitely felt unfinished). I have to admit, I got a little exhausted of hearing about his childrens' golden hair. ;-) However, I managed to be interested enough to finish it within two days, so that says something. 2.5 stars. Some parts were interesting and entertaining. He's a descriptive, often humorous writer, but this book felt too disjointed for me (and some of the stories definitely felt unfinished). I have to admit, I got a little exhausted of hearing about his childrens' golden hair. ;-) However, I managed to be interested enough to finish it within two days, so that says something.

  18. 4 out of 5

    L

    This memoir is more about parenting than Hong Kong. So, if you're looking for a straight Hong Kong travelogue, this isn't the book for you. However, it was laugh out loud funny at least once per chapter, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about this family's year in Hong Kong. This memoir is more about parenting than Hong Kong. So, if you're looking for a straight Hong Kong travelogue, this isn't the book for you. However, it was laugh out loud funny at least once per chapter, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about this family's year in Hong Kong.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Liked this writing style. Does a good job explaining the difficulties and the joys his family found doing a year abroad. Because his two older children are very different, got a good sense of how different personalities deal with travel and change. I want to go to HK now!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rivkah

    Entertaining account of an American expat family's year in Hong Kong, and some of their travels in mainland China and other parts of Asia. A very brave family, considering that they did this with three young children. Really good, clever author - you can see why he got a Fulbright scholarship. Entertaining account of an American expat family's year in Hong Kong, and some of their travels in mainland China and other parts of Asia. A very brave family, considering that they did this with three young children. Really good, clever author - you can see why he got a Fulbright scholarship.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Fabulous read...funny, sad, educational. A friend from my high school days is the author!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rock Angel

    Some city libs carry ebook

  23. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Graham Hipp

    I was disappointed in this book; I learned much more than I wanted to know about the author's difficult children and much less than I wanted to know about Hong Kong. I was disappointed in this book; I learned much more than I wanted to know about the author's difficult children and much less than I wanted to know about Hong Kong.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Not what I expected. It was about the author's three kids and how he viewed each of them. Not what I expected. It was about the author's three kids and how he viewed each of them.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Maibelle

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lynne Cosmano

  27. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lydia Kegler

  29. 5 out of 5

    Gab

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

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