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

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  1,007 Ratings  ·  191 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
ebook, 256 pages
Published July 5th 2011 by Holt Paperbacks
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Nov 12, 2011 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 27, 2011 Meaghan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 01, 2011 K rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 23, 2011 Pamela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 23, 2012 Denise rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 26, 2011 Ramón rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Andy Oram
Jun 01, 2016 Andy Oram rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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 willing to express vulnerability. 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 ...more
Mar 02, 2011 Eve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 05, 2013 Wendy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, non-fiction
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
Mar 08, 2012 Kristi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 31, 2011 Andi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Zomick's  Bakery
Nov 04, 2014 Zomick's Bakery rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Fake Name
Interesting. 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, 2012 Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, 2012 Jaelegant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe gave it another star than it deserved, but it made me nostalgic for Peace Corps.
Aug 02, 2012 Santo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china-studies
“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
May 14, 2017 Cesar rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
White guy teacher goes to China and gets stared at a lot. White guy being Jewish adds little, if anything, to the story. White guy's teaching style is what his Chinese students were missing all along. I think I saw the movie, only it starred Michelle Pfeiffer and had Black students. But really though, I enjoyed the book.
Dec 09, 2012 Becky rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, humor, jewish
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
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
Michael Levy is a huge nerd. I just had to get that out of the way. Don't get me wrong here, I identified with him very easily because I've always had friends just like him. But he's still a huge They-Might-Be-Giants-lovin’ nerd.

Anyway, in Kosher Chinese, Levy recounts his experience as a Peace Corp volunteer in rural China with the "other billion." He does a good job of mixing up the insightful with the funny and fish out of water moments.

At times he had me laughing out loud. His students Puss
"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
Quails Magpies
Dec 16, 2016 Quails Magpies rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 18, 2015 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I recently returned from my first visit to China. For many reasons, I'll be going back frequently, and with a great deal of excitement as the country left a very positive impression on me. Shortly after I got back, I stumbled upon Michael Levy's tale of his Chinese experience and had to read it.

It's tempting to write one's exploits in strange lands down, hoping to luck into that rare story that combines fascination with humor, insight, and marketability. I dare say that at least half of those wh
Jamie Crouthamel
Feb 22, 2013 Jamie Crouthamel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 17, 2011 Christopher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir
(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
Mar 18, 2012 Ensiform rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, travel, china
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
Jul 28, 2011 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
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
Mar 16, 2013 Jyoti rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mostly a funny read. Mike Levy was normal in his queasiness over eating insects, dog meat and wines made with animals or their private parts! Considering his American upbringing, he was patient and open-minded about the hostility, poverty, illiteracy or fixed ideas of people he met while teaching in Guiyang. He enjoyed the warmth he got from people, gave his best effort to teaching English to graduate and post-grad students and tried his best to take it all pleasantly over his 2 years in this sm ...more
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
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“Since the future cannot be known and everything is changeable, I beg all of you to find the people you have come to love and express yourself with fervency. You will never have this chance again.” 5 likes
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