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American teacher of Xiamen University releases new book

By Cheng Yuezhu (chinadaily.com.cn) Updated:2019-04-11

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    William Brown, Xiamen University professor. [Photo provided to China Daily]   

An American teacher at a Chinese university releases a new book, Cheng Yuezhu reports.

Xiamen University professor William Brown has released his new book, Off the Wall - How We Fell for China, which is a compilation of around 50 letters he wrote to his family and friends between 1988 and 2017. The letters recount his past three decades living and working in Xiamen, Fujian province, which the American academic calls home.

"Xiamen is my 'first hometown' because, in the United States, the longest I lived in one place was seven years but I've lived in Xiamen for 30 years," Brown says.

The book, launched in December, has been published by China's Foreign Languages Press in both English and Chinese, and includes Brown's family photos, images of his original printed letters and hand-drawn illustrations. Brown says part of the title, "off the wall", is a phrase that means "eccentric or unconventional" that faithfully captures his experiences in China.

In the book, Brown talks of buying vanilla at a paint store, buying a pedicab for his daily travel and learning the taboos of Xiamen culture, among other stories, narrated with much wit.

The Chinese title, Wo Bu Jianwai, translates as "I am not an outsider".

When someone calls Brown a laowai (slang for foreigner), he answers by saying he is a laonei, or "insider", his own coinage.

Brown says he witnessed and even participated in China's economic transformation, and it has been constantly refreshing his perception of China.

Born in 1956, Brown grew up dreaming of migrating to Australia at age 8 and wanted to be stationed in Greenland at the US Air Force. Little did he know that the quirks of fate would lead him to Xiamen, a city he had only heard of months before he actually embarked on his journey to Fujian province.

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