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Kosher Chinese: Living, Teaching, and Eating…
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Kosher Chinese: Living, Teaching, and Eating with China's Other…

by Michael Levy

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Another in the Tales of the Peace Corps/Tales of China categories, though a reasonable rendering of both. More like [b:River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze|94053|River Town Two Years on the Yangtze (P.S.)|Peter Hessler|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1171271609s/94053.jpg|1441686] than [b:Iron and Silk|685391|Iron and Silk|Mark Salzman|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1177178537s/685391.jpg|144931], Levy's memoir manages to be both entertaining and educational. Like Hessler, Levy captures the absurdity and at times the horror of living in an unfamiliar culture. Unlike Salzman, he describes what he's doing in the classroom ands his relationships with his students. The Chinese fascination with Judaism allows Levy certain outs of the "I'm not an American, I'm a Jew" variety. These are often useful when he needs to distance himself from inaccurate assertions about US culture. The statements about Jews are also often stereotypical or incorrect, but they are more admiring than vitriolic.

Levy wrestles with questions of identity and how to balance Peace Corps ideals with his own beliefs and practices. In this regard he does a better job than many, and I'd have wished for even more. Though not stylistically the best of the Returned Peace Corps authors, his writing is straightforward and flows without awkwardness. This and his self-reflection make this memoir better than some others for teaching international studies/field work preparatory classes. ( )
  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
When a Jewish-American Peace Corps volunteer is sent to a rural area of China to teach English, cultures clash and mesh in comical ways. Both teacher and students learn to expand their ideas of the world and themselves. ( )
  poetreegirl | Feb 11, 2013 |
Entertaining memoir of a Peace Corps volunteer’s experience in the interior city of Guiyang, which was growing but still a comparative backwater. There’s a lot of mutual incomprehension and good-faith but often insufficient attempts to understand on both sides. Levy’s students are smart, but/and they see no alternatives to one-party rule, while recognizing that it’s at least as much crony capitalism as Communism; most of them seem very worried about their futures, and not unreasonably so. Levy adopts a running joke about “x with Chinese characteristics” for many things, including his Judaism, which ends up becoming a reason to have pizza night. Slight but enjoyable. ( )
1 vote rivkat | Nov 4, 2012 |
I have have been living in China for the past few years having spent the previous 18 years travelling here regularly. Kosher Chinese is one of a whole sub-genre of books about China which are written by Westerners who have lived here for a few years - usually working as teachers.
Michael Levy was a Peace Corps Volunteer who finds himself teaching English in what would be described as a 3rd tier city way out in the back of beyond, where -as he says- the other billion Chinese live.
He describes the learning curve he faces in coming to some kind of understanding of how life can be for young people in China, what they think and feel, and how the system works (or doesn't work). The book rings absolutely true, and any reader will get a very accurate snap-shot of what life here can be like for both local people and an ex-pat. At times he finds it difficult not to make moral judgements on the society - and I applaud him for his self-restraint in not trying to impose American values on his students and fellow teachers, but trying to understand the world they live in from their point of view.
The book is full of interesting people and situations, and at times is both very funny and yet poignant. Because I live here it didn't really teach me anything about China that I didn't already know, but for anyone interested in this huge and extraordinary nation it is well worth reading. ( )
1 vote herschelian | Jul 6, 2012 |
I laughed tears reading that book! I hope he writes more! ( )
  yukon92 | Apr 10, 2012 |
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I strongly believe there is no species of millipede I will ever find palatable.
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Kosher would never feel quite the same.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805091963, Paperback)

An irreverent tale of an American Jew serving in the Peace Corps in rural China, which reveals the absurdities, joys, and pathos of a traditional society in flux

In September of 2005, the Peace Corps sent Michael Levy to teach English in the heart of China's heartland. His hosts in the city of Guiyang found additional uses for him: resident expert on Judaism, romantic adviser, and provincial basketball star, to name a few. His account of overcoming vast cultural differences to befriend his students and fellow teachers is by turns poignant and laugh-out-loud funny.

While reveling in the peculiarities of life in China's interior, the author also discovered that the "other billion" (people living far from the coastal cities covered by the American media) have a complex relationship with both their own traditions and the rapid changes of modernization. Lagging behind in China's economic boom, they experience the darker side of "capitalism with Chinese characteristics," daily facing the schizophrenia of conflicting ideologies.

Kosher Chinese is an illuminating account of the lives of the residents of Guiyang, particularly the young people who will soon control the fate of the world.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:05:32 -0400)

An irreverent account of the author's experiences as a Jewish-American Peace Corps volunteer serving in rural China describes his observations about the lives of China's interior populations and their complex relationships with local traditions and the rapid changes of modernization.… (more)

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