Thursday, January 10, 2013

Book Review: Kosher Chinese by Michael Levy

Title: Kosher Chinese: Living, Teaching, and Eating with China's Other Billion
Author: Michael Levy
Source: Personal Copy
This book would be rated: PG
Enjoyment Rating: ****

With only a couple of months until we head back to China, I've started reading books about China again. I read Michael Levy's memoir Kosher Chinese, detailing his two years at Guizhou University with the Peace Corps, in less than a day. Levy's voice is engaging, the material is entertaining, and the book is very readable. He focuses not on the coastal cities of China, which he thinks are quite westernized, but on the smaller, interior places, where the worldview is quite different from our own. He tells entertaining stories, eats a lot of scary food, and does a great job conveying the idea of guanxi-- the importance of relationships and connections-- an "I scratch your back, you scratch mine" kind of deal.

I spent my time in China in the places Levy would call the "westernized coastal cities" but still found it to be very different (especially some places in Nanjing) than the world I'm used to at home. So I kept having to remind myself that "my" China was still a lot more familiar to me than Levy's China would have been.

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