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Kosher Chinese: Living, Teaching, and Eating with China's Other Billion Paperback – July 5, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
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“A funny and informative account of life in Guizhou province, deep in the heart of China. As a Peace Corps volunteer, Michael Levy came to know and love a part of the country that few visitors see, a world away from Beijing and Shanghai.” ―Peter Hessler, author of River Town and Oracle Bones
“As a Peace Corps volunteer, Michael Levy taught for two years in a corner of China overlooked by tourists and correspondents. Kosher Chinese is a heartfelt, engaging memoir that captures at once the poignancy and humor of daily life in the new China. Levy's narrative balances his own acclimation to China with his students' acclimation to university life, and independence. This is what it feels like to be immersed behind the headlines--for Levy, it came to feel like home.” ―Michael Meyer, author of The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed
“Michael Levy is the tour guide to the real China we all long for. Funny, insightful, full of warmth and wit, Kosher Chinese brims with interesting characters and scenes, and it marks the debut of a fresh new voice in American writing.” ―Bruce Feiler, author of Walking the Bible and The Council of Dads
“With intelligence and zesty good humor, Levy tells the story of his sojourn as an ESL teacher in Guiyang… A rollicking, thoroughly refreshing debut.” ―Kirkus
“As in Peter Hessler's River Town…and Peter J. Vernezze's Socrates in Sichuan…, Peace Corps experience is the inspiration for Levy's cheekier and freewheeling but insightful adventure story.” ―Library Journal
Top Customer Reviews
The gold standard for such a book is River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze (P.S.) by Peter Hessler, who has contributed a blurb endorsing this book to the promotional material. (Hessler journeyed into the interior of China with the Peace Corps in the mid-90s; Levy did so a decade later, and while the two volunteers did not serve in the same regionk a side-by-side comparison of the authors' experiences is a useful way to track China's rural development in the intervening years.) It's a tearfully poignant tale of cross-cultural friendship and a chronicling of an ancient society in transition.
As for this book, the rather flip title and especially the kitschy cover illustration had me worried that this would read more like a cheap parody. But one shouldn't judge a book by its cover; it wasn't long before I realized that Kosher Chinese is, both intellectually and emotionally, every bit the equal of River Town. And that's high praise indeed.
The book strikes a slightly goofy tone, especially in the opening chapters, but that's only because the author is faithfully recounting his first impressions of a new culture; and when one is making the acquaintance of a society quite different from one's own, there are many times when one must simply bow to the absurd.Read more ›
All this said, it is a funny and poignant story. Here is a teacher who wants to give his best in a system where his methods and aims are, to put it mildly, out of step with the prevailing idea of pedagogy. And here is a human being intent on establishing genuine relationships while holding on to his own values, if not the precise rules, of his own culture. For such a gentle story, there is a surprising amount of tension.
In the end, the author is able to draw together disparate threads such as basketball, post-modern literature, and rural poverty. It is a strangely cohesive story, a crazy quilt held together by the author's frame of reference and point of view. I enjoyed it and, at a time when China's prominence is poised to eclipse the USA's, I learned from it.
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.
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. This narrative of a 29 year old ESL/literature teacher's two years in China as a Peace Corps volunteer has plenty about eating, the alimentary canal, food and cuisine. 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.' In search of cheese for a pizza to be served by popular demand, Mike and his Chene colleague Jennifer pass through a meat market that leaves him queasy:
"We listened to music until my stomach was completely settled and then entered the restaurant supply store. 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. "Now you can cook us pizza for Shabbat!" Jennifer was twitching with excitement...." (p.92).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was a former Peace Corps China volunteer '14-'16 and I read this book in the middle of my service. I was laughing so hard at some parts my stomach hurt. Read morePublished 24 days ago by Kelly Branyik
The author meets a wide range of people in this book: some confident in finding their place in the Chinese economy, some thoughtful, some initially guarded but then suddenly... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Andrew D. Oram
An Orthodox, vegetarian Jew goes on a Peace Corps mission to one of China's lesser known provinces, Guiyang, where he teaches English at a university. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Nancy A
I cannot remember the last time I laughed as hard as I am laughing as I read this book. Perhaps it was during the "Lip My Stockings!" scene in _Lost in Translation_. Read morePublished 7 months ago by chungking
Not exactly a book that held my attention for long. It seemed to meander around a lot, but the writing was good. In the end, it didn't really have much of an impact.Published 13 months ago by Roll-On U Bears
An interesting view of everyday life in a "smaller" city in China.Published 15 months ago by Ingrid Meyer
Funny inspiring and full of insights. I enjoyed every page of it. One of my best books about modern China.Published 18 months ago by Bob
Interesting book. Well-written. Gives you a sense of early 21st-century China.Published 18 months ago by SeussFan
found it a bit banal. The writing was amusing at time and there were some interesting looks into the complexity of China, but overall not great.Published 20 months ago by SH