Kosher Chinese: Living, Teaching, and Eating with Chinas Other Billion
Aug 26, Catherine Blass rated it really liked it Shelves: I borrowed this from a friend of mine who lived in China for a year. Honestly, I was skeptical going into this--I am generally not a fan of books written about a country by a person not from that country. However, Levy did an excellent job. He was hilarious, but also honest as far as I can tell and humble. I feel like I have learned more through reading his book, and the book made me want to read more about China.
There was not a moment in this book that felt unnecessary or irrelevant; I loved I borrowed this from a friend of mine who lived in China for a year. There was not a moment in this book that felt unnecessary or irrelevant; I loved it all. I picked this book up from the library because I laughed out loud at several points in the short introduction. I laughed because I just spent two years as an expat in the "forgotten places" of China and Levy's introduction was pitch perfect in capturing the simultaneous gravity and hilarity of cross-cultural foibles.
The rest of the book struggled to maintain its initial balance and freshness, but it was an enjoyable read nonetheless, delivering a few truly hilarious anecdotes. This will be an en I picked this book up from the library because I laughed out loud at several points in the short introduction. This will be an entertaining, if not completely satisfactory, read for anyone who has been an expat for any amount of time, particularly in China. I think it is particularly salient for those who have spent time in the regions of China who have largely been left behind in the astonishing economic changes of the last three decades.
Though his writing is uneven and his humor tends a little too often toward the crass and sophomoric, he still touches on some of the unique emotions and situations of the expat experience. He's a humorous commentator on some of the more idiosyncratic aspects of Chinese society on the surface, but he flounders a bit when trying to touch on the more complex aspects of societal confusion, cultural chauvinism, and political hegemony.
Despite that, he is still successful in unfolding his story in an engaging though disconnected way, and at least does an admirable if incomplete job of introducing some of the complexities in Chinese culture and society that the average American reader might never consider. For that reason, I would recommend this as a good light read shot through with some small educational nuggets.
Definitely worth checking out. Jul 29, Bookworm rated it really liked it Shelves: A surprisingly fast read about a Peace Corps volunteer who travels to China for two years and about his experiences. It was a really enjoyable read, although it was not quite what I expected. I thought his religion might play a little more into the narrative, but it wasn't. Thankfully the author mostly steers clear from stereotypes and orientalism. It's worth contrasting his experiences with the PC versus for when he returns to teach in Beijing, which seems to be an entirely different planet in some ways.
To be fair, some of the story really dragged along for me especially his side stories about basketball and game tournaments. But I put that down to fact it just wasn't something I cared for. An enjoyable read, definitely made my plane ride go by faster. I could understand if folks have a higher opinion of the book than I came away with, but I really wasn't able to identify with the author, being neither Jewish, nor a basketball fan, nor knowledgeable of the music to which he sometimes refers.
The "Jewish angle" seemed little more than a marketing hook to me - he makes no dietary concession at all, presumably eating pork during his time there, though he does host a Friday "Shabbat night" for his Chinese students. Unlike in Hessler's book, we get I could understand if folks have a higher opinion of the book than I came away with, but I really wasn't able to identify with the author, being neither Jewish, nor a basketball fan, nor knowledgeable of the music to which he sometimes refers.
Unlike in Hessler's book, we get little insight into the teaching experience itself, with the emphasis placed on the personality of his students, the basketball playing which to be fair includes a fascinating encounter with a fortune teller , as well as his friendship with a local ethnic minority family. Overall, the book was okay - not sorry I listened to it, but by the time the eight hours were up I was quite ready to go on to something else. Narration took getting used to as George Backman sounded somewhat older than thirty years, though I can see why he got the job as his seemingly perfect to me Chinese accent, and Chinese-accented English voices, were a definite plus.
Dec 07, Rebecca rated it liked it Shelves: For some reason I thought this book would be more about food? Doesn't the title just scream that to you or is it just me? Anyway, it mostly wasn't. And that isn't a bad thing! A Dude in his mid 20's heads of China to be an English teacher in the far west, the poorer part of the country and just his experiences there. I don't know much about China and learned a lot while reading this book.
The names that the kids give themselves are too funny but sort of hard to keep straight. I like that this bo For some reason I thought this book would be more about food? I like that this book was only about his time teaching and didn't get really into much personal. As a fellow Jew, it's always interesting to me what non-westernize countries think of us, how much do they know or not. I really liked those aspects and conversations the most. A very American point of view book but the whole thing took place in China. Not what I expected, but ended up being very good none the less.
Jun 01, Andy Oram rated it really liked it Shelves: The author meets a wide range of people in this book: It is a complicated society, well caught by Levy. Sometimes the people's utterances were so ridiculous or stereotyped that I wondered whether Levy had invented them, but an air of truth surrounds the book. China has no economic need for Peace Corps volunteers because the government could pa The author meets a wide range of people in this book: China has no economic need for Peace Corps volunteers because the government could pay for any training it wanted but it seems that the country needs the volunteers for their fresh approach to teaching and interacting.
Levy, although he presents himself as a goofy and even wimpy person at the start, fills the need for vigorous teaching superbly. The Jewish aspect plays a minor role--this is really a travel book. Mar 02, Eve rated it really liked it Shelves: This book isn't out yet -- I got an advanced reader's copy from my mom, who's in publishing -- but when it comes out you should read it! It's a fascinating, often hilarious story about the author's time living in rural China while working for Peace Corps.
The title is misleading: Levy doesn't even try to keep kosher in China although he is initially resistent to eating millipedes and dog meat. There are some amusing exchanges about food, though which I won't give away , and lots of interestin This book isn't out yet -- I got an advanced reader's copy from my mom, who's in publishing -- but when it comes out you should read it! There are some amusing exchanges about food, though which I won't give away , and lots of interesting insights into what poor, rural Chinese people think of Jews and Americans in general, as well as of themselves.
Maybe there should have been more reflection on the crazy things Americans think about Chinese people, but you don't have to go to China to find out about that. Jan 05, Wendy rated it liked it Shelves: The author tells of his experiences as a Peace Corp volunteer while teaching English in rural China. It is a humorous, serious and sometimes sad depiction of how minorities of China work, live, eat and think about their lives, and the rest of the world. The Chinese Way of teaching, controlling and guiding their citizens was fascinating as well as disturbing. The Chinese perceptions of education, religion, the US, capitalism, and race is so skewed it is comically sad.
He has a irritating habit of The author tells of his experiences as a Peace Corp volunteer while teaching English in rural China. He has a irritating habit of writing metaphors to help with his descriptions with science fiction, fantasy books and movies. If you are not familiar with books like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and the like, the descriptions are useless.
Mar 08, Kristi rated it it was ok. I was really hoping for some deeper insights into Levy's experiences in China, especially contrasting his Jewish culture with the Chinese culture, but overall it was "teaching in China lite". I read it quickly and haven't really thought of it since, although I will warn you there are a couple scenes of animal cruelty by Chinese nationals that were hard to read. China is a hot topic right now but this book didn't give me much insight into this country. Jul 31, Andi rated it liked it.
This is basically "what I did on my summer vacation" but it was entertaining and somewhat informative. While there are inevitable "squat toilets are gross" passages, there are also interesting insights. And even though the author clearly enjoyed becoming a popular guy on his trip, his writing is self-deprecating enough that he doesn't come off as too much of a dick.
So if you want an easy read that also might teach you something new about china, this is it. I wouldn't buy it again, though. This This is basically "what I did on my summer vacation" but it was entertaining and somewhat informative. This is library or friend-borrowing fare. Nov 04, Zomick's Bakery rated it really liked it. I read this book as a recommendation from a friend. At first I was a bit disappointed, mainly because I run a bakery and was expecting a cookbook with some sort of Chinese kosher challah recipes.
Nevertheless, soon the book became interesting as the narrative story was easy and just flowing through the pages. Some of my colleagues at Zomick's Kosher Bakery also read it and all of them liked it pretty much. Aug 19, Channah rated it liked it. I feel like I know a lot more about Chinese culture now. It's very well-written although I think some things should have been taken out because they were never resolved and most likely never were in real life and so didn't add anything to the book.
Sep 10, Charles rated it really liked it. A funny, informative well written account of a Jewish Peace Corps volunteer in interior China. A fun read; sometimes disturbing due to the Chinese inhumane treatment of animals, especially dogs but very insightful observations on the politics of Chinese networking. Jan 03, Jaelegant rated it really liked it. Maybe gave it another star than it deserved, but it made me nostalgic for Peace Corps. Aug 02, Santo rated it really liked it Shelves: There were two copies on the shelf; I decided on the one with less cracks on its spine.
What a coincidence, I figured. I had never been to Guizhou before; it never crossed my mind. And so, what should I expect from Guiyang? I remember the time when I went on a familiarization trip paid for by the Chinese Ministry of Trade to Xuzhou in Jiangsu Province, thinking all the time that I was going to Suzhou, the more popular city of the same province. The other billion whose lives rarely make it to the western media.
We know little about them; and thus, it is almost certain that they would most likely know little about us. I only had to turn the corner from my apartment to understand the stark contrast in livelihoods between my perfume-smelling neighbors and those living in makeshift houses in the outskirts of Beijing. I had in my power to turn away from discomfort if I ever wanted to. And that, while there is a Shenzhen that is as modern as any city in America, there is also a Guiyang that is probably a few light years behind. Kosher Chinese was an easy read; I finished it in 3 days, mostly during breaks at work.
Levy lived a life completely immersed in Chinese. He spent days after days with his students, who would confide in them the many challenges they faced in life. He ate many local delicacies, which I never dared going near. And although he never mentioned any romantic episodes throughout the book, I find it a bit difficult for anyone to have never been in any way allured by the beauty of almond-shaped Chinese eyes.
I may have travelled to more places in China and lived there longer than Levy, but I enjoyed each and every one of the stories Levy recounted. Probably because Levy never tried to sound smart, teaching his readers in a patronizing way. His humor seems to come from the views of a generation of westerners that I feel a belonging to. Sure enough, the book was as much a lesson on the Chinese people as it was a confirmation of the similar experiences I had lived through before.
That encapsulated part of my life in Beijing, one of the most frustrating things about living in China. Of course, that was until I began to learn the local drawl; something that I learned during drunkard nights coming out from Vics Nightclub. Yet, somehow I have a feeling that the people in Guiyang would hardly understand my poor, accidental lao bei jing accent. Yes, many know about Celine Dion and Arnold Schwarzenegger. And yes, many know how important China is becoming in the global community. However, many also believe that life in the West is simply decadent, dangerous, and unfulfilling.
Many generalize about things outside of China, like how Jews are superior in many things, and that Africans are not in many others. Not many either knows the difference between Indonesia and India, or whereabouts Indonesia is in comparison to Malaysia. All in all, as I finished reading the last emotionally charged chapter, I was happy to reconfirm that, yes, it was a book worthy of its price tag.
And as I pack my clothing for that trip to Guiyang, I realized that I would never be able to experience Guiyang the way Levy did. I will most likely be chauffeured around, and shown the nicer places in town. Nevertheless, I am happy for this introduction to the city. Nov 16, Bob Newman rated it really liked it.
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When a student of mine suggested I read this book, I agreed, though I'm not into that many memoirs to tell the truth. But there was one big difference between Michael and me. I went to India with the Peace Corps in The Gulf of Tonkin incident that ushered in America's Vietnam disaster took place while I was in training. The world was really different. India is an old civilization with its own ways too, but not like China. Some years later, but still before Michael appeared on the planet, I visited China, then when he was around 6 years old, I taught English in China, but only a short course in Xi'an, not for two years.
I tended to compare India and China. Still, I can definitely identify with his experiences. China changed a helluva lot between , when I taught there, and , when Michael arrived in Guiyang to teach English at university level.
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Walmart, Macdonalds, and Ray-Ban sunglasses fake or otherwise were totally unknown when I worked in China. My students had suffered during the Cultural Revolution; been sent down to shovel manure in distant villages. Yet their products were eagerly sought. How to wend one's way through this? Culture clash, culture shock, the question of 'how far am I willing to change? He was an American in China.
His views, his feelings, and his self-questioning are all typical of what many Americans and many Peace Corps Volunteers would go through in the same situation. His is a book about being foreign in Chinanot the big east coast cities, but in an inland metropolis not much used to anyone different. Though he seems to have made friends easily and played on a university basketball team, he also had to grapple with the preconceived notions about the US, the West, or "foreigners" they are all alike that are widespread in China, often gleaned from propagandistic textbooks.
For obvious reasons, I found this book both sympathetic and familiar. I liked it a lot. A Peace Corps experience changes you forever in that part of you always remains with that other world that you once inhabited. It is easy to read and will keep your attention. For an account of a modern Peace Corps experience in a still-strange land, you can't do better. May 16, Ken Yliniemi rated it really liked it.
Excerpt of Kosher Chinese: Living, Teaching and Eating With China's Other Billion : NPR
A pretty good read. Or do you become a new version of you? From Publishers Weekly In this lively memoir of serving in the Peace Corps in Guiyang, China, Levy explores a society in flux—while mining the entertaining if familiar terrain of cross-cultural misunderstandings. Holt Paperbacks; Original edition July 5, Language: Related Video Shorts 0 Upload your video. Share your thoughts with other customers.
Write a customer review. Read reviews that mention peace corps michael levy kosher chinese corps volunteer chinese characteristics dog meat river town peace corp teach english taught english east coast guizhou university socialism with chinese well written fish out of water beijing and shanghai peter hessler read this book corps volunteer culture shock. There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. Michael Levy's "Kosher Chinese" came recommended by a cheerful bibliophile who runs a great restaurant.
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The cover looked like a big sushi with a picture of Mao on it. At the incredibly low price of a used book, why not? Readers, this is not a cookbook and that sushi is a yarmulka of an Orthodox Jew with a picture of Mao on it, the black seaweed wrapping actually Michael Levy's hair. These are incidental, compared to what else "Kosher Chinese" covers. The book is more concerned with friendships, the fiddler-on-the-roof quality of respecting an ancient, complex culture while "representing" the United States, and the dilemnas facing many us, wherever we live, when our reach exceeds our grasp however good our intentions.
Levy is a fine writer and a man who goes with the flow. For example, his colleagues at the University in Guiyang initiate a Friday Shabbos, 'with Chinese characteristics. Towards the back, tucked into a corner, was a freezer. Inside the freezer were bricks of long-frozen cheese. I pulled out a two-foot long, twenty-five pound bag of frozen parmesan, feeling like Oliver Twist. It would be enough cheese for a year. Remember this is a narrative story, not an analytic tale.
It is produced as a basic book. There is no index, no maps, no heavy-weight paper, no photographsand no recipes. For those, readers would need to select from among the five Chinese Kosher cookbooks liberally available through Amazon. Highly recommended for a page-turning read that nourishes mind and spirit. Write on, Mike Levy, and may the force be with you! Kindle Edition Verified Purchase. I have taught two semesters of university sophomore English in Shandong Province. My experiences paralleled the author's.
Excerpt of Kosher Chinese: Living, Teaching and Eating With China's Other Billion
It was refreshing not to mention validating to have someone else's take on life as an American teacher in China. Levy's book is gently written with self-deprecating good humor. The affection that grew for his Chinese students and friends over the two years that he taught is sensitively portrayed.
Anyone would enjoy and benefit from reading this account of Peace Corp work in a provincial Chinese city. It makes sense of Chinese thoughts and customs that otherwise are baffling to the average Westerner. One person found this helpful. Entertaining, page turner with a lot of heart and insights into the differences and similarities between cultures.
I especially loved the author's treatment of the Wang sisters. I wanted to know what happens to each of the people he comes across, you care for their outcomes. He is able to build a real caring for his students and community he builds in China. Michael Levy made me appreciate my toilet. His memoir, Kosher Chinese, is a comedic tale of when he, as a young peace corps volunteer from Philadelphia is placed in rural and mountainous Guiyang, China, and navigates his way through a new culture, strange foods and his teaching job at the local university -- all while maintaining his Jewish values.
He sums up his first minutes in his new home by writing about the airport bathrooms. He describes singing Country Roads while waiting on the bathroom line, then gives a detailed explanation of his experience with a Chinese squat toilet. The characters in the book steal the show. No one can forget Big Twin and little Twin along with Cousin Wang, the teenage girls Mike as everyone calls him in the book meets who keep him updated information about Chinese Pop-culture.
Vivian, his new found friend and local teacher, who, when asked about communism, says, "Walmart is the future, and Chairman Mao is the past. Mike, to his students, is the wisest authority in any subjects, not just English. If any of his students need romantic advice, they go to him. They also ask many questions about America. He is also pulled into an educator in the Jewish religion to all who join the Jewish Friday Night English and Cooking Corner Club for his students that want to learn more about Judaism that he was amicably forced into starting.
They cook kosher foods and talk about the differences between America and China and practice speaking to one an other in their foreign language. I found myself talking out loud to the characters in the book warning them not to "go in the closet". Kosher Chinese has factual and historical information woven into a comical memoir. You learn about some views on communist China while also reading about his long journey to find cheese in his city so you don't feel like you're researching China or being recruited for the Peace Corps.
The story is unique enough to China that you appreciate than antics that go on, but also a little universal so connections can be made with all walks of life. This book is for young adults and adults. You don't even have to know anything about China.
I knew barely anything except for what I heard from the media and all around me. Though many people can enjoy it, it is particularly funny if you are associated with Judaism, as the author gives many jokes relating to the religion. I implore you to read this book. This novel goes beyond the superficiality of "serving the less fortunate" and gives a real and zany account of living in a strange place and having to adapt to a new culture and way of life. Kosher Chinese is a cut above the rest. This book was well written and provided much detail about an American living in a rural part of China.
Kosher Chinese: Living, Teaching, and Eating with China's Other Billion
I didn't want the two year teaching term the author was assigned and, therefore the book, to end! Throughout the story, the author develops the other characters, as well as himself, and makes the reader want to know what happens to everyone involved. See all 85 reviews. Most recent customer reviews. Published 10 months ago. Published 1 year ago. Published on August 1, Published on June 1, Published on May 18, Published on January 14, Published on July 9,