Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of Kosher Chinese: Living, Teaching, and Eating with China’s Other Billion from the publisher.
Kosher Chinese is a quick read, pretty entertaining, and for those of you who don’t know much about Chinese culture and China, may be somewhat shocking. (some of the stereotypical comments they make about Americans, Christians, eating pork, etc.) But it’s a very interesting view at what is quickly apparent to many who are in China: the Chinese perspective on life not all that different from post-modern culture where people construct all sorts of meaning for themselves. And it’s a mixture of capitalism, the Party, traditional Chinese values, and whatever else people can grab a hold onto. (Actually very American-like if you ask me)
A couple of key themes and comments:
1) China is not one country per se. It is politically, but culturally it is not… it is a huge place, with different ideas, minorities, etc. And for those who didn’t know it, it comes out very well here. Mike does a great job highlighting some of the differences between the coastal, Tier 1 cities and life in rural China.
2) Chinese people are hardly uniform in their outlook. Again, it’s not rocket science if you consider the geography and population, but Mike highlights a lot of the conflicting views from a teaching perspective, which is quite good at highlighting the differences. The stuff that comes from his post-modern graduate English course is very effective.
Some of the “backwards” ideas that the Chinese have can be surprising, but it’s actually not all that different from uninformed American views about China too.
3) The highlighting of differences between western and Chinese education are very well done—like VERY well done. But it’s not too critical—it examines some of the assumptions—and I thought actually pretty balanced. Yes, Chinese education could become more innovative, creative, etc., but at least you can see why it is the way it is… and why that’s not as negative as many in the west would say.
4) It’s a memoir–keep that in perspective and it’s a much more enjoyable book. Take it as anything different like a sociological study (ethnography), and you won’t be appreciating the purpose of Mike’s writing.
I barely spent any time on this book, but quickly finished because it just moves very quickly as a memoir. I wouldn’t call it essential China reading, but its definitely fun and worth it for those who know nothing about life there.
So many China books to review and so little time!