JoAn Smith

About the Author
Read a note from the author


Healing My Heart in the Heart of China

by JoAn Smith

Chopstix: Healing My Heart in the Heart of China is the true story of a modern woman’s journey of self-discovery.

Divorced after 27 years of marriage, Joan Smith, a typical mom from a small community in Michigan, finds herself at the gates of an unknown university in the heart of mainland China. A Craigslist ad—Teach English in China—leads her to the other side of the world, to a place with no familiar faces and no memories that would remind her of the all-American life she once had and all that she has lost. In China, she hopes to disappear forever among 1.3 billion people.

Instead, she discovers the most unusual place for her reconciliation with life: SIAS International University. From the moment she sets foot on land and catches her first glimpse of China and SIAS, Joan senses that she’s is in for a most extraordinary experience. A series of unexpected and valuable life lessons unfold as she starts her new life on the campus just outside the rural town of XinZheng, in Henan Province. Tall, slim, and blonde was nothing notable back home, but in XinZheng, Joan stands out as a spectacle among the locals, many who have never seen a Westerner.

And she finds a new name: JoAn. Same spelling, different emphasis. And a new start in life. Little does she know that this is the beginning of an incredible journey into the unknown, that she will experience heartache and love, face danger and uncertainty, and she will stretch herself in ways she never thought possible.

Joan, the suburban mother becomes JoAn, the teacher—and the unwitting student. As she becomes acquainted with her many students and adapts to the cultural differences that she finds, at times, unbearable, she learns many lessons herself. Still overwhelmed with the wounds of the past, she gradually adapts to China and accepts her new life and the lessons it has to teach. She befriends other members of the foreign faculty: Bruce, the sophisticated but eccentric L.A. movie critic; Jacqueline, the fiery redhead from upstate New York; Lee, the strong-willed Texan. She also meets Robert, a handsome executive from Michigan, now living in Shanghai. And, of course, the two China dolls, Kitty and Allie, who become JoAn’s surrogate daughters.

The heartache that pushed JoAn over the edge and into a desperate escape to China continues to surface as each day brings her a new healing message and a step closer to reconciliation. On the road to self-discovery, she learns what is most important in life and who she really is. Moment by moment, piece by piece, bit by bit, the struggles and wondrous experience of living one day at a time in an unpredictable world leads to renewed confidence, love, a sense of adventure, and a new appreciation for chopsticks.

Chopstix: Healing My Heart in the Heart of China

426 pages, 6" x 9", Hardback,
with photos and emails.

ISBN: 978-1-935125-83-9

Hardback edition: Robertson Publishing (RP)

A portion of the proceeds from the hardback book
will be donated to the SIAS Needy Student Fund.

Click the YouTube link below to see the
Sias International University Foreign Faculty Slideshow :
YouTube.com Sias Foreign Faculty

Purchase the hardback edition of "Chopstix" from Ingram Books or any of the links below:

Use this link to purchase the Kindle Edition
TV Interview: "My China Journey of Self-Discovery" with Diana Ding of Ding Ding TV

Ding Ding TV

Los Gatos Patch

       Los Gatos Author Nominated For Global eBook Award ...
          Link to the article.


5 stars—Debora
A warm and engaging account of a life-changing adventure. JoAn, newly divorced and on the cusp of middle age, applies on impulse for an English-teaching position at a university deep in China's interior. Traveling to the other side of the globe, she soon discovers, expands not only her geographic borders but her personal ones as well. Pick up CHOPSTIX and live, learn and laugh along with JoAn.

Great read! —Kelly Knowles
"I really enjoyed this book! JoAn's writing style is richly descriptive. You feel as if you are right there with her through all her adventures. JoAn paints a vivid picture of China while she shares her struggles and her hopes, faces danger and uncertainty, embraces new and unlikely friendships, and learns about herself in the process. I love the way the book is organized in a collection of true stories that build on each other, so you can enjoy each story individually as well as appreciate the overall story of her journey of self-discovery and renewal. Punctuated throughout, JoAn's sense of humor had me laughing out loud. As I read the last few stories, I was amazed to see how far she had come, how many meaningful relationships she had cultivated along the way, and how her experiences shaped her life and her future. Her story is inspiring for anyone who has faced uncertainty and despair and has wondered what might be possible on the other side. JoAn shows that if you are willing to take a leap and embrace the unknown, open yourself up to new experiences, new friends, and new ways of thinking, you might just open yourself up to a whole new world and a whole new you!"

5 stars—Debbie the tech
"Chopstix Finding My Heart In The Heart of China was an amazing book. I highly recommend this book to all women who have gone through the pains of divorce and are finding themselves again. It is especially touching for those who have traveled to China before, or for those thinking about going. JoAn writes from her heart and does an amazing job in this book. The Chopstix refelections (must read to know what I am talking about) are amazing and so healing! After facing a divorce myself and contemplating going to China to teach, I discovered JoAn's book and am convinced that I too can find my heart! Thank you JoAn."

5 stars—Gary Lee Todd
If you have suffered a tragic loss like an unwanted divorce, this book is for you. If you have ever thought about teaching overseas, especially in China, this book is for you. If you have ever heard of Sias University in Henan Province, this book is definitely for you. JoAn Smith writes about all these things with much insight, sensitivity, and occasional bits of humor which had me literally laughing out loud. When I started reading, I couldn't put it down, and finished the entire 400 pages within a day. While I read from 30 to 50 books a year (mostly history), I can think of very few which kept me captivated the way Chopstix did. I give it a "two thumbs up." Disclaimer: I am not an unbiased reviewer. I began to teach at Sias the same year JoAn did (2005), and I still teach history there. I know all the people and places she talks about. I even appear as a minor character myself, so maybe my delight is partly based on sharing common experiences. But Chopstix is still a lot of fun to read, and other people who don't share my biases have told me they agree.

5 stars—MaryL
We all go through personal hardships and voyages of discovery, and so we can relate to JoAn's journey and admire her courage. This is a story of personal growth and discovery. What makes it remarkable for me is the degree of honesty and lack of artifice. I am constantly amazed at her courage in laying bare her soul to us. And what makes it especially interesting is that this voyage takes place in China and we see glimpses of a life and culture in a distant place. Highly recommended.

"The most entertaining book I have ever read about China from a woman who consistently tests herself and not the people around her."
—Bruce Feld, co-author of "The Givers and the Takers"

"I just wanted to tell you that I enjoyed your book Chopstix tremendously. It made me laugh, cry, think, and most of all FEEL. Thank you for writing it, but you must update me on your friends from China. I hope you are working on a sequel. I fell in love with Alex and Robert and Bruce and Jacqueline, as well as your daughter and sons. I must know how they are doing!" —Miki M.

"Love....love....love...the book! I started your book, and could not put it down...I've been up late every night reading! I’ve cried, laughed and completely understood so many things" —Deborah J.

Pages from Chopstix  ~ Copyright Material ~

Author's Note
Toc continued

JoAn Smith
JoAn on the shores of West Lake in Hángzhou, China.

JoAn Smith has a BA in Communications and BA in French from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. She is an avid public speaker, teacher and traveler. She currently resided in Los Gatos, California.

For further contact please write to her at: Chopstix.thebook@gmail.com


Robertson Publishing, USA

510-573-6625 or Toll Free 888-354-5957