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When a spouse gets posted overseas for a job, it becomes an education for the entire family. Not only does everyone usually have to learn another language, there’s often a whole new lexicon to learn as well. Depending on where you go, phrases like “green zone,” “forced evacuation,” and “security detail” might become need-to-know terms. Luckily for Alan Paul, his wife was sent to Beijing to head up The Wall Street Journal’s bureau there, so he and his three kids were on safer ground than some other Americans abroad. To help acclimatize to the local scene, the homesick writer started a blues band named Woodie Alan, which ended up earning a sizeable following in the land of Mao. Paul’s book, Big in China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues, and Becoming a Star in Beijing, documents the group’s strange success. In the end it didn’t matter that Paul left China speaking only limited Mandarin—his mastery of the guitar proved eloquent enough.

Paul speaks at 6 p.m. at Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919.