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

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

by Rachel DeWoskin

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“For a real insider’s look at life in modern China, readers should turn to Rachel DeWoskin.”—Sophie Beach, The EconomistSee more details below


“For a real insider’s look at life in modern China, readers should turn to Rachel DeWoskin.”—Sophie Beach, The Economist

Editorial Reviews

Exhibiting sensitivity and uncommon wisdom, DeWoskin delivers a candid and valuable portrait of a China few Westerners get to see.
William Grimes
Why did the Chinese adore a barely competent nonactress whose voice was dubbed to make her Mandarin sound even worse that it was? Why did the producers dress her in a bright-red business suit and a fur coat when she was supposed to be an exchange student? And how could it possibly be that she earned only $80 an episode on a series watched by some 600 million viewers in China?

These and other imponderables perplex Ms. DeWoskin as she recounts, in this deft, daffy comedy of errors, her improbable adventures as a soap opera queen and her fumbling journey through the new entrepreneurial China.
— The New York Times

Publishers Weekly
DeWoskin moved to Beijing in 1989, shortly after the military squashed the democracy movement in Tiananmen Square, but just as China's younger population began embracing Western ideologies and commodities. This entertaining romp through her five-plus years in Beijing details her life as a PR consultant-and as the star of the wildly popular Chinese nighttime television drama Foreign Babes in Beijing. After getting the gig on a lark, DeWoskin became known, sometimes even in her real life, as the character Jiexi, an American who falls in love with a married Chinese man, in the 20-episode drama, which aired to an estimated 600 million viewers. Her memoir weaves humorous tales of Sino-U.S. culture clashes both on and off the set with astute observations of the two cultures, as well as a significant amount of Chinese history. Though she admits frequently to being homesick for New York, DeWoskin feels for the loss of more traditional Chinese culture: "Consumerism became a religion; companies arrived like missionaries... seducing the average Zhou Schmoe with products he had never known he needed." The book offers a generous helping of Chinese words (along with their English translations and insights into the young people's "Chinglish"), as well as Lost in Translation-esque glimmers of the differences between the Chinese and American acting worlds. Agent, Jill Grinberg. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Expat TV star takes readers on a tour through a China in transition. When dyed-in-the wool Sinophile DeWoskin graduated from Columbia University, she headed to China and took a job in public relations. But before long she landed the leading role in what became China's hottest soap opera, whose name in English gives this memoir its title. The author lived in Beijing for the last half of the 1990s, when China was changing. As evidenced by her hit show (which sounds like a combination of Friends and Dynasty), Western culture was encroaching. By the time DeWoskin left, there were no more donkey carts in downtown Beijing, and street vendors had given way to cafes at which trendy Chinese sipped lattes. Her co-workers believed that all Americans were fat, but during the author's years there the Chinese gained an unprecedented amount of weight and suddenly had an obesity crisis of their own. Both on the TV show and off, the Chinese all around DeWoskin wrestled with the institutions of daily life. Should marriage be based on love, or to please the family and the state? Should people dress in traditional garb, or opt for Timberlands and Levis? The author both chronicles and participates in this new Chinese revolution. The cast includes her delightful friends Anna, a hard-core expatriate, and Kate, a quirky, questioning Chinese woman. DeWoskin herself makes a charming, rather humble narrator, and her prose is as gripping as the content. Describing her attempt to understand rapid Chinese speech, she writes, "listening to people speak was like standing on my tiptoes and trying to catch their gists with a butterfly net." Neither straight reportage nor navel-gazing memoir, her account slips in historyhere and there, as well as an analysis of America's foreign policy. A babe's-eye view turns out to be surprisingly substantive.

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Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.76(d)

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