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

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  794 ratings  ·  171 reviews
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 advis
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Paperback, 256 pages
Published July 5th 2011 by Holt Paperbacks
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River Town by Peter HesslerMonique and the Mango Rains by Kris HollowayNine Hills to Nambonkaha by Sarah ErdmanUnsavory Elements by Tom  CarterUnofficial Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook by Travis Hellstrom
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10th out of 55 books — 40 voters
A Walk in the Woods by Bill BrysonEat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth GilbertInto the Wild by Jon KrakauerInto Thin Air by Jon KrakauerIn a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
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429th out of 1,123 books — 2,177 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,752)
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Sara
I really enjoy travelogues about China, even though they all follow the same pattern: traveler doesn't know much about China, takes crash course in Chinese, lives in China, experiences the contact sport that is standing in line in China, says stupid things in Chinese because they get the tones wrong, feels like an outsider, pokes fun at the food, makes friends, makes witty remarks about globalization in China (usually while sitting in a KFC or Pizza Hut) falls in love with China, finally feels a ...more
Meaghan
This book was not only extremely amusing, but it also, I think, gave me a look on what it's really like to live in China. Levy writes about China and the Chinese people, particularly its young people, with compassion and wit. And of course there's the typical travel stories of strange food -- he finally forced himself to eat dog but drew the line at fried millipedes -- and hilarious language mistakes. Levy got into a lot of strange situations in China -- I think the "Santa Claus and Silly String ...more
K
With Kosher Chinese: Living, Teaching, and Eating with China's Other Billion, Peace Corps veteran Michael Levy has given us another addition to that ever-proliferating memoir genre, The-Crazy-Thing-I-Did-For-A-Year (or two). "Kosher Chinese" lives up to but fails to transcend the expectations for that genre -- scattered humorous anecdotes, occasional poignant insightful moments, and a few Big Questions (no great answers, but no one really has them anyway), embedded in a sea of mildly interesting ...more
Pamela
Kosher Chinese is a memoir of a young man, Michael Levy, serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in remote Guiyang, in Guizhou province, China.

Except for a few weeks training, Levy knew little about his destination and even less about Chinese culture. Almost from the beginning, Levy comes face to face with the differences he’s been told about in his classes.

You’ll find yourself, by turns, chuckling, shaking your head, even taking notes, and horrified. It is hard to tell who had more to teach, Levy o
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Denise
An interesting quick read. It's important to note that it's one person's experience in a specific city, but it's certainly not a perspective that I've been exposed to. I really appreciated that the book seemed well-balanced between the good and the sad. Mike Levy didn't try to overplay the poverty angle, or the creation of the middle class. I feel like I got to know the author and the people he got to know in China, rather than being exposed to characters or stereotypes.
One lingering question I
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BooksAndTea
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. Indeed, I think he did a pretty good job in showing what might seem pretty weird/oppressive/uncomfortable for Westerners, but was completely normal fo
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Ramón
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
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Zomick's  Bakery
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. - Zomick's
Eve
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 ...more
Wendy
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
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Kristi
Just 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. The fact that Levy reported these scenes but didn't really comment on them was just another instance of the overview/lite appro ...more
Andi
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 ...more
Katie Johnstone
Having just spent a year abroad in a similar Asian semi rural city in peripheral consciousness, I was pleasantly surprised by how relatable this book turned out to be- from searching for cheese to the strange appropriation of Christmas, to the difference in political paradigms that surface in conversation with our local peers. I can imagine the criticism that this book might face from different parties- from Jews, that Levy didn't take a firm stance on his religiosity, and that it wasn't a centr ...more
Charles
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.
Jaelegant
Maybe gave it another star than it deserved, but it made me nostalgic for Peace Corps.
Darren
Enjoyed the book. The author was fun to read about. I wouldn't have minded it being a lot longer - his vignettes of life in rural China were great, and I think the book would have been improved if it had more anecdotes. The image of Levy running through Walmart dressed as Santa Claus was wonderful.

The one thing I did find annoying was his choice of teaching material. Honestly? You have the chance to pretty much choose exactly what you want to introduce the cream of Chinese grad students to from
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Shai
4.5 stars. It's funny and fun. An easy, entertaining read that is also thought-provoking.

I was in China, only for one year, and ensconced at Hangzhou University for only one semester in 1984. So though my experiences were not as intense and deep as Levy's, so much of the book rang true to my experience. But it was 20 years later than when I was there. So much was the same, in spite of the huge changes.

Levy is reflective, thoughtful, funny. He is trying to make a difference but knows that he prob
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Jamie Crouthamel
I picked this read up on a whim after I had finished my other book at work and was looking for something to entertain me on my lunch break. I'm REALLY glad I did! This is a fantastic memoir of Mike, a Jewish Peace Corps volunteer who is stationed as an english teacher at a university in central China. He is given a crash course in Chinese in a westernized city where wealth and progress are an breakneck speed. When he travels into the interior he is faced with the reality that is far different th ...more
Melissa
I'd like to join the Peace Corps someday. And I had thought that if I did, I would very much like to serve in China. So this was a good book for me to read, as it brought about some things about volunteering in China that I would never have thought about. Plus, the author is just downright funny.

Michael Levy decides to join the peace corps and is shipped off to China where he is to be a language teacher. There, he faces each day with students who are eager to learn, but not in a way he is accust
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Amanda
Much of the narrative arc of this memoir is typical Westerner-meets-China stuff: attempting to speaking Chinese results in miscommunication due to inability to use tones correctly; experiencing shock and horror at eating foods like chicken feet or dog meat; making acute observations about globalization when noticing the abundance of KFCs and McDonalds; etc. “Kosher Chinese” has all of these and more; however, Levy recounts his experiences in a refreshingly honest manner. He never lectures about ...more
Ensiform
The author recounts his experiences as an English teacher sponsored by the Peace Corps for two years in China’s heartland, the city of Guiyang in the relatively poor Guizhou province. Until then a vegetarian who kept a kosher diet, he soon realizes that in order to get the full experience, he will have to eat as his hosts do: fried bugs, maggots, lizard wine, and maybe even dog stew. Of course, he also adjusts to the culture shock in a variety of other ways, mastering squat toilets, understandin ...more
Angie
"I held the ball and took a deep breath. The trip to the game had included a teammate crapping in a bag; my cheering section included a girl from a tiny village forced to go to work at age twelve; my team nickname was Friendship Jew. But the hoop was still ten feet high. A rebound was still a rebound. As long as I was allowed to play the game, the differences surrounding it faded away."

Kosher Chinese is the Peace Corps memoir of 29-year-old Michael "Mike" Levy, detailing his two years in Guiyang
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Christopher
(Note: Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program)
With all of the talk about the 21st century being "China's Century" and with all the praise liberal commentators give to China's explosive economic growth, it can be easy to forget that these are the East coast cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Mr. Levy, through the eyes of a Jewish-American Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV), gives us a glimpse of the China few know about and even fewer talk about: the ethnic divisions within China that b
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Becky
Kosher Chinese is Michael Levy's memoir about his two years as Peace Corps Volunteer teaching English in rural, central China. This is truly a wonderful, humorous, warm, and deeply insightful read (and also completely appropriate for a Jewish person to read around Christmastime... Levy even mentions the Jewish tradition of eating at Chinese restaurants on Christmas somewhere in the book).

The book provides readers with a glimpse of what life is like outside of Beijing and Shanghai, the areas of
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Amy
The author, Michael Levy, was sent to the middle-of-nowhere in China in 2005 by the Peace Corps to teach English at Guizhou University for 2 years. The book is his account of his time there – a total immersion into a China that many of us here in the U.S. do not hear about – what Levy calls “China’s other billion”. The result is a perceptive and informative memoir, chronicling daily life in China from an American’s point of view. It comes with a bit of humor as well; I found myself laughing out ...more
Alex Rosenberg
Michael Levy has a way with characterization. I fell in love with all of his students and friends. The book itself sits in a difficult place. Levy himself is a minority, but one that is no longer persecuted in America (well, in polite America). Being Jewish myself, I tried to connect with him on a religious level, but Levy is very much the "modern Jew." Immediately upon arriving in China he gives up Kosher-life in favor of assimilation, as he feels is his duty as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Many bo
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Sacramento Public Library
Kosher Chinese, by Michael Levy, recounts the story of the author’s two-year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in a small Chinese city, where he taught English at the local university. When Levy first arrived, he was squeamish about eating a bowl of millipedes his hosts offered. Hoping not to offend, he declined on the grounds that he was Jewish and millipedes weren’t kosher, hence the book’s title.

In Levy’s two years in China, he came to understand the profound differences between the interior
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Lynn
The Peace Corps is an great place for stories about other countries from Americans. Author Michael Levy invites us to Guiyang province in China where he taught English for 2 years at a local college. Guiyang is in the middle of China and is one of the least developed parts of China which means sewers pour waste out with abandon, garbage is everywhere and the population has a large population of minorities. Mike's students have taken English names for themselves, such as Pussy, Shitty, and Moron. ...more
John
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 ...more
Santo
“In September 2005, the Peace Corps sent Mike Levy to teach English in China’s heartland. His hosts in the city of Guiyang found additional uses for him…”

Those couple of sentences on the back of Michael Levy’s Kosher Chinese: Living Teaching, and Eating with China’s Other Billion were enough to make me feel that despite its Rp 175.000 price tag, this book was going to be worth all of it. I didn’t even think twice. There were two copies on the shelf; I decided on the one with less cracks on its
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