• Henry Holt and Co.
Kosher Chinese - Michael LevySee larger image
See Hi-Res Jpeg image


email/print EmailPrint

Kosher Chinese



Listen: Michael Levy on writing Kosher Chinese (Duration: 6:14)
Loading the player ...
Book Buy
Ebook Ebook 
    
Share this book with friends through your favorite social networking site. Share:           Bookmark and Share
Add this title to your virtual bookshelves at any of these book community sites. Shelve:             
sign up to get updates about this author
add this book's widget
to your site or blog

About The Author

Michael LevyMichael Levy

Michael Levy is an educator, writer, and traveler, who currently teaches in Brooklyn, New York, at Saint Ann's School. Levy returns frequently to Guiyang to check in on his students and visit the basketball courts where he momentarily attained stardom. While in the United... More

Stay In Touch

Sign up to recieve information about new releases, author appearances, special offers, all related to you favorite authors and books.

Other Books You Might Like

cover Buy

More formats
eBook
W. E. B. Du Bois, 1868-1919
Biography of a Race

Holt Paperbacks
This monumental biography--eight years in the research and writing--treats the early and middle phases of a long and intense career: a crucial fifty-year...
cover Buy

More formats
Audio eBook
Still Foolin' 'Em
Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys?

Henry Holt and Co.
Hilarious and heartfelt observations on aging from one of America’s favorite comedians as he turns 65, and a look back at a remarkable career Billy Crystal is...
  
cover Buy
Jack Kerouac
King of the Beats

Henry Holt and Co.
An intimate biography of the writer who has become an American icon. More than fifty years after the publication of On the Road, Jack Kerouac is more read and...
cover Buy
Black Earth City
When Russia Ran Wild (And So Did We)

Metropolitan Books
A young woman's heady encounter with the new Russia, as she and the country thrill to their first taste of freedom It is September 1991 and the dismantling...
  
cover Buy
The Coldest Winter
A Stringer in Liberated Europe

Henry Holt and Co.
In this elegant and affecting companion to her “extraordinary” memoir, Borrowed Finery, a young writer flings herself into a Europe ravaged by the Second World...
  
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
Benjamin Britten
A Life for Music

Henry Holt and Co.
This spellbinding centenary biography by Neil Powell looks at the music, the life, and the legacy of the greatest British composer of the twentieth...
  
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
Gellhorn
A Twentieth-Century Life

Holt Paperbacks
The first major biography of legendary war correspondent Martha Gellhorn casts "a vivid spotlight on one of the most undercelebrated women of the 20th century"...
  
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
Pol Pot
Anatomy of a Nightmare

Holt Paperbacks
“The text sparkles with shrewdly plausible inferences mortared into a compelling narrative . . . [Short] is excellent at coining pithy summations of political...
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
Eleanor & Park

St. Martin's Griffin
“Eleanor & Park reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.”—John...
cover Buy
Bad Kitty for President

Square Fish
The votes are in--it's a Bad Kitty landslide!  It's time to elect a new president of the Neighborhood Cat Coalition! Who will win the election? The candidate...
cover Buy
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Slide and Find

Priddy Books
Eric Carle’s familiar illustrations of brown bear, red bird, yellow duck and the other endearing animals from his classic creation parade across the pages of...
  Bonus

EXCERPT

Preface

The People Who Are Special, Too

I strongly believe there is no species of millipede I will ever find palatable. The particular version I found in my bowl on a warm summer evening in the summer of 2005 was an easy call. There were hundreds of them, red and pink, each about an inch long. They had however many legs it takes to make something "milli" as well as angry-looking pincers from both the front and back. They had been deep fried and were left moist with oil. The dish included long sugar sticks that one could lick and dip into the bowl. The millipedes that stuck would get sucked off the stick in what I had been assured was a delicious combination of sweet and sour. Nevertheless, I demurred.

"I cannot eat this," I told my host, a middle-aged Communist Party official in a dusty blue jacket. We were two of the dozen or so people who had gathered at the center of Unicorn Hill Village #3—a tiny hamlet of perhaps thirty single-story houses constructed of cinder block and wood—to celebrate my visit and the arrival of the Peace Corps. We were sitting around a low, round table on fourteen-inch-high plastic stools. The millipedes glistened before me in a chipped porcelain bowl. The group stared on in silence as the village leader looked from me to the millipedes and back to me. He had a spindly frame and tanned skin that was drawn taut against his cheekbones. He looked like a Chinese Voldemort.

"Eat the food," he grunted. His wife had made the millipede dish according to what my guide told me was "a very special recipe of the Bouyei people." The Bouyei were a tiny, impoverished ethnic group concentrated in the mountains of central China. These were some of the very people the Peace Corps had sent me to live with, learn from, and—in theory—teach. My first meal in the village and I was off to a bad start.

"You can eat this," my guide said with a nervous smile. "It tastes good." He demonstrated for me, licking his sugar stick, dipping it in the bowl, and sucking off one particularly hairy millipede. "They're sweet," he explained, crunching away happily, "and Americans like sweet things."

I nodded. "That's true." I groped for a polite escape. "But I'm a little different than most Americans." This gained me perplexed looks from both my guide and my host.

"I'm a Jew."

Gasps. Widened eyes. Furrowed brows. Awkward silence. I said this last sentence in Chinese. "Wo shi youtairen." The phrase, loosely translated, meant "I am a Person Who Is Special, Too."

Why—oh why—had I said this? This was atheist, Communist China, after all. Didn't Karl Marx say religion was the "opiate of the masses"? Had I just told my hosts I was a drug addict? And hadn't Chairman Mao condemned religion as one of the "Four Olds," a remnant (along with old culture, old habits, and old ideas) of the feudal past the Communist Party sought to destroy? I wondered if the arrest and deportation of a Peace Corps volunteer would make the evening news back home in Philadelphia.

As the silence around the table deepened and my face turned ever-darker shades of red, I marveled at the desperation of my religious mea culpa. I should have known better. I had, after all, already undergone months of Peace Corps training, sweating through seemingly endless hours of language classes, daily safety-and-security lectures, and occasional lessons in cross-cultural sensitivity. All of this, however, had taken place in Chengdu, the wealthy, relatively Americanized capital city of Sichuan Province, which was now a sixteen-hour train ride to the north. Chengdu had McDonald's, Starbucks, and an IKEA. It was the China of Thomas Friedman and other American pundits touting China's rise. I was now in Guizhou Province, the desperately poor, rural province in the dead center of China that would be my home for the next two years. Guizhou had . . . millipedes.

I was happy that my training was complete and I was finally on my own. I was happy to be in a part of China I had rarely seen covered in the American media. I was feeling like an authentic, trailblazing Peace Corps volunteer on an Indiana Jones adventure. Unicorn Hill Village #3 was no Temple of Doom, but this was far from my typical dinner.

Dr. Jones played it cool; I was desperate. Embracing my Jewish roots at that particular moment was a foggy-headed attempt to get excused from the table. I had never yearned so powerfully for a bagel.

"Jews can't eat insects," I mumbled, my eyes scanning for reactions from the men who surrounded me. "I don't want to get into it, but there are a lot of rules for us . . ."

The tension seemed to mount until, quite suddenly, the silence was broken by a hoot from my host's wife. Her cry was followed by smiles from others in the group, pats on my back, and even some applause.

"Comrade Marx was Jewish," said a man sitting a few paces away from the table, staring at me intensely.

"So was Einstein," beamed the man to my right, offering me a cigarette.

"You must be very clever," said my guide, as the bowl of insects was removed from my side of the table, replaced by a dish of steaming meat.

"Why would the CIA send us a Jew?" mumbled Voldemort. I wasn't sure I had heard him correctly, but the raised eyebrow from my guide let me know I had, officially, just been accused of being a spy.

It was all a little bewildering, but I smiled like an idiot, happy to avoid the millipedes. I dug right into the mystery meat, and the men around the table quickly began eating their food as well. There was a toast to my health, then another to my success as a teacher, then another to American-Chinese friendship. We all got good and drunk.

I had passed the test. I was a Jew in the middle of nowhere, China.


Excerpted from Kosher Chinese by Mike Levy
Copyright 2011 by Mike Levy
Published in 2011 by Henry Holt and Company
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

You May Also Be Interested In

cover Buy
The Old Man and the Boy

Holt Paperbacks
This classic captures the endearing relationship between a man and his grandson as they fish and hunt the lakes and woods of North Carolina. All the while the...
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
Why Him? Why Her?
How to Find and Keep Lasting Love

Holt Paperbacks
The national bestseller that shows you how a better understanding of who you are will help you find and keep the love you want Helen Fisher can often tell,...
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
How About Never--Is Never Good for You?
My Life in Cartoons

Henry Holt and Co.
Memoir in cartoons by the longtime cartoon editor of The New Yorker People tell Bob Mankoff that as the cartoon editor of The New Yorker he has the best job...