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Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China

3.43 of 5 stars 3.43  ·  rating details  ·  803 ratings  ·  116 reviews
Determined to broaden her cultural horizons and live a fiery life, twenty-one-year-old Rachel DeWoskin hops on a plane to Beijing to work for an American PR firm based in the busy capital. Before she knows it, she is not just exploring Chinese culture but also creating it as the sexy, aggressive, fearless Jiexi, the starring femme fatale in a wildly successful Chinese soap ...more
Paperback, 332 pages
Published April 17th 2006 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published May 1st 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,602)
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John
Don't let the title and the cover fool you, because this book is not as salacious as it sounds. (Aside: This was the first book I put on hold at my library, and when the librarian handed it to me, she was all, "Woohoo, look at those fishnets! I thought it said 'Foreign Babies' but I guess not." She thought I was some kind of pervert. While that may be true, she did not have evidence of it in her hand at the time.) This is the true story of the author, who went to Beijing in 1995 to work for a PR ...more
Eric Klee
When I travel, I like to bring a book with me that would be considered "light reading." I picked up FOREIGN BABES IN BEIJING because it was described as a "Sex and the City" set in China on the dust jacket. The author moves to Beijing to work in PR and suddenly finds herself on a Chinese soap opera called "Foreign Babes in Beijing." Sounds fun, right?

As I started to read it on the airplane, I was suddenly transported back to my freshman foreign governments class in college. I wasn't expecting a
...more
Jessica Larson-Wang
I liked this book a lot. China in the 1990s was a special place and Rachel DeWoskin had the good luck to be involved with a very interesting group of people. I'm married to a Chinese musician, and many of his tales of that period of time are similar to what DeWoskin talks about in her book. For that alone, and the fact that I somewhat know the feeling of being a "foreign babe" in China, I found it easy to relate to her book. China memoirs aren't that uncommon, but I was excited to come across on ...more
Lena
Jul 26, 2007 Lena rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: memoir
As memoirs go, this story of a recent Columbia grad who ends up starring as a Western hussy in China's most popular soap opera is a fascinating one. I learned a lot about what modern day life in China is like from this book. It was particlarly shocking for me to read that some people there don't keep journals out of fear what they write might be used against them by the government. Still, the tone did get a little academic for me at times and I wish the author had included more of her own person ...more
Matt Holloway
So this girl graduates college and goes to China to work for an American PR firm, but also gets cast in a cheezy Chinese sitcom (same title as the book) about slutty American chicks and how badly they long for Chinese guys. It's watched by like 40 million people. I'd give the book 5 stars but she doesn't string out the sitcom storyline long enough. Her cultural reflections and stories about Chinese friends are great and illuminating, but they can't compare (in my eyes) to the stories about the s ...more
Louise
When I first saw the title of the book, Foreign Babes in Beijing, I didn’t know what to expect. Its cover was racy but facetious. I was confused about the title. Was it implying local Chinese women weren’t babes?

The first few chapters cleared up the confusion. This non fiction book is about the author, Rachel, and her first few years as an expatriate in China. Foreign Babes in Beijing is actually the title of a Chinese soap opera she acted in.

I had read and grown tired of the usual books I read
...more
Corine
This is an interesting snapshot of China through the eyes of the author when she lived in Beijing, working for a PR firm on one hand, and starring in a Chinese soap opera on the side. It is an interesting combination of memoir with a somewhat academic twist, for lack of a better word. It has much more substance than the title of the book implies. Using the Chinese soap opera as a backdrop to shed light on her experiences, perceptions and attempt to understand the historical and changing Chinese ...more
Sigrid-marianella
It looks like chick-lit but don't judge a book by it's cover.

I'm absolutely loving this book, but I suspect it might be because I myself lived in Beijing for some years and can relate to a lot of what she is writing. I'm not sure someone who hasn't lived there would be as captured as I was so for that I give it four stars.

Having arrived in China 10 years after Rachel I enjoyed reading her descriptions of the city as it was and getting an image of how it has transformed (and in many ways remaine
...more
Dennis
I'm glad that I didn't judge this book by its cover, although I cannot deny that the shapely pair of fish-netted legs did catch my attention. Truth is this book is far less sensually provocative than it is evocative of expatriate life in the heart of an awakening economic powerhouse. Rachel DeWoskin's memoir about her adventures as a 20-something college grad working in Beijing for an American PR firm paints a vivid portrait of life as a foreigner in China during the 1990s.

Rachel is not just yo
...more
Katie
**Edited to say that I totally dropped this down to two stars. I've read/been reading solid three-star books since then, and realized how much more I disliked this one compared to them, so two stars is a truer reflection of how I felt about it.**

This is purely in the "meh" category. I never really got who DeWoskin was throughout the thing, and found myself super bored - especially considering that the story should have been really interesting. I'm not sure how long after the events it was that s
...more
Karen Germain
I first heard of Rachel DeWoskin a few weeks ago, when I picked up her one of her works of fiction, "Big Girl Small", which I loved. I immediately looked up other books by DeWoskin and discovered that she had written a memoir about her time living in China in the mid-90's. The title of her memoir "Foreign Babes In Beijing" refers to the title of the very popular Chinese soap opera that DeWoskin found herself cast in as Jiexi, an all American girl and temptress to one of the married Chinese male ...more
Kathy
This was our book club selection this month and the it came highly touted. It was a very interesting story.

Rachel DeWoskin moves to Beijing after graduating college in the mid=90s and lands a job at a PR company. She also wins a role on a Chinese TV show as one of two foreign girls who steal the hearts of two Chinese brothers. The show is ultimately watched by 600 million people. We saw some of it online and it's pretty much the cheesiest thing ever.

DeWoskin also talks about two other critical e
...more
Shanti
Sep 11, 2007 Shanti rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone moving or having just moved to China
Shelves: non-fiction
So far, I think this book is interesting because I relate to many of the heroine's experiences; I've been living in Beijing for the past 5 months. However... I'm not terribly swept away by the story; that may be because the book is more of an observation or diary, in my opinion.

I am learning some new vocabulary from her - Chinese vocabulary.

The night I met Cui Jian, I came home, took a shower, and opened up this book to read the section where she describes a character, Kate's infatuation for t
...more
Pia
An entertaining book about a young American woman's everyday life in China. It's interesting to read about Rachel's relations to people in her surroundings, for example her work colleagues (what's accepted to do, to say and what is not). She describes communication differences and difficulties, and often it's a funny read. The author also takes China's politics and history into account, and places situations in relation to certain events. In that way the book is a part, and a result, of a life s ...more
Donna
Although I usually read Chinese history, I wanted to read this book, published in 2005, to learn more about the changes in modern China. Written by a woman young woman who spent five years working in China, Rachel DeWoskin, brings to life just how different the culture is now. An engaging account of her involvement with the local people, the Chinese TV world and a quickly changing China.
Anne
I found this book on the shelves of the One World Library Project and wasn't quite sure what to expect from the title. What a happy surprise! Turns out "Foreign Babes in Beijing" is the title of a popular sexy TV soap opera in China in which the author becomes an unexpected star, a "foreign babe", in the series.

DeWoskin went to China for an adventure with only two years of college Mandarin under her belt and a job lined up working for an American PR firm. Her five years in Beijing in the 90s ca
...more
Maura
On the Lonely Planet China recommended reading list

The upside was that the author's experience in China comes across as quite believable. Also, her writing was reasonably free of superlatives for a 20-something.

The downside was that the plot wasn't very interesting aside from the cultural experiences.

The best line of the book is during an argument between Rachael and some Chinese friends one day after the NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, about whether the bombing was intentional
...more
Meri
This is a fascinating true story. Rachel DeWoskin moved to Beijing in 1994 and was cast in a Chinese TV drama shortly afterwards. She writes about her increasing understanding of China and what it means to be an American there during a period of rapid change, which is interesting enough. On top of this, she becomes a celebrity as the show airs, and finds herself surrounded by intrigued Beijingers. She deals with the "fish in a bowl" feeling of having the Chinese scrutinize her every move and ass ...more
Margaret Sankey
DeWoskin is a thoroughly American college student with two years of college-level Mandarin and looking for a post-graduation PR job in the mid 1990s. Family friends arrange a job with a Chinese firm anxious to nab Americans, launching her into five years of living in a rapidly-transforming China, including being recruited to play an American-Chinese vixen (seducer of good filial character son) on one of china's first modern-style soap operas. Since the events of this book took place nearly 20 ye ...more
Mariefitriani
It was in interesting story of how China changed in the final decade of the twentieth century, especially coming from woman too. The way DeWoskin wrote somewhat reflected how I felt when living abroad (less problem with the language though!) Her style of writing humorous and full of trying to look on the bright side of things, despite being frustrated by many things that were so foreign to her. Of course in the end she had to just laugh them off.

When she finally left, it was kind of a sad thing
...more
Kristen
This was a good book, except that at points it got away from the Story by adding too many historical facts. That being said, if anyone wants to know what it's like to live in Bejing, they will be able to understand after reading this book.

Just so you know, the name of the book is the name of a soap opera the author acted in, kind of as a fluke. She was in China working in marketing, and stumbled upon the opportunity to act. She is really good at being real and explaining the faults she had as an
...more
Merredith
This is a memoir about an american girl who goes to live in beijing for five years after college. she works for a PR firm and also ends up acting in a chinese miniseries called foreign babes in beijing. this book starts out boring, then gets more interesting, and then boring again. i liked learning about the differences in culture, and all the expatriots that live over there...i thought it would give me some more insight into the chinese culture than it has. overall a good, not great, book. Oh, ...more
Jenny
After our trip to China, I love all things Chinese. I love the way this writer throws in little bits of Mandarin with explanations...which become especially funny when she tells you how she got it wrong.
Sharon Li
This was my first voluntary non-fiction read. I happened onto it on a book rack at work. In the book, author Rachel Dewoskin recounts her time living in 20th century China, where she is hired to star in a popular Chinese soap opera while working at a P.R. firm in Beijing. It is filled with quirky anecdotes of cultural clashes and things lost in translation. Although Dewoskin is a mediocre writer at best, I enjoy the refreshing lack of political commentary, which infiltrates almost all Western bo ...more
Martha Sami
It is a light read and an insightful window for the 90's China from a foreigner's perspective!
Gabrielle


I borrowed this book from a savvy lady who like Dewoskin, also spent over 5 years in Beijing as a 'laowai yang niu', albeit in a less open era. Amazingly enough, this book is beginning to feel a little outdated the rate of change in Beijing is almost incomprehensible. Think of it as 19th Cen. New York. I have to stress how wonderfully well the author writes on the never changing role of other and the finding of a new 'self' in another culture. Anyone who has dealings with China in business would
...more
Thomas
The average rating on this book is 3.5, and that seems about right to me. I'm sorry, Ms. DeWoskin, for rounding that down to 3. An entertaining tale of somebody who sort of kept "ending up" - ended up living in China, ended up helping multinational brands to refine their image in China, ended up starring in a Chinese soap opera. Some good cultural insights, and the clip she has on her website of the show is a good companion after reading about her experience. Let's just say, I enjoyed it, but it ...more
Jaylia3
A fascinating memoir of life in Beijing during the last half of the 1990’s. Rachel DoWoskin had just graduated from college with a degree in English and a love of poetry when she moved to Beijing to take a job that didn’t completely suit her, working for a PR firm trying to persuade the Chinese to try donuts and other western products. In the five years that she was there she also starred in a popular Chinese soap opera, lived in illegal foreign housing and made many Chinese friends who ranged f ...more
Leila
I read this book in China on the way to Beijing and while I expected to hate any narrator who gets to travel to Asia right after college with a job all set up and then star on a soap watched by 600 million people, I ended up liking Rachel DeWooskin. She gets a little lofty trying to fit her friends and colleagues into metaphors for modernizing China, but her descriptions of cultural differences and all that is lost in translation are SPOT on. I laughed out loud so many times while reading this t ...more
doreen
Super-entertaining account of DeWoskin's life in Beijing. I read the book within a couple days, staying up really late to finish it! DeWoskin's great at conveying the humour of being a soap opera vixen who is painted with the brush of what the Chinese expect from Americans, and then explaining her real life issues as a "foreign babe" in Beijing.

It's a good book! Read it, and you might find yourself laughing out loud. Those of us who have lived in another culture can relate to DeWoskin's observat
...more
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Rachel DeWoskin is the author of Foreign Babes in Beijing, a memoir about her inadvertent notoriety as the star of a Chinese soap opera, and a novel, Repeat After Me. She lives in New York City and Beijing and is at work on her fourth book, Statutory.
More about Rachel DeWoskin...
Big Girl Small Blind Repeat After Me

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