Read Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China by Rachel DeWoskin Online


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 soDetermined 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 opera. Experiencing the cultural clashes in real life while performing a fictional version onscreen, DeWoskin forms a group of friends with whom she witnesses the vast changes sweeping through China as the country pursues the new maxim, “to get rich is glorious.” In only a few years, China’s capital is transformed. With “considerable cultural and linguistic resources” (The New Yorker), DeWoskin captures Beijing at this pivotal juncture in her “intelligent, funny memoir” (People), and “readers will feel lucky to have sharp-eyed, yet sisterly, DeWoskin sitting in the driver’s seat”(Elle)....

Title : Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780393328592
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 352 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

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

  • John
    2019-03-24 21:12

    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 firm and have some adventures. She ended up staying for five years and managed to play a main character on a very popular Chinese primetime soap opera, called Foreign Babes in Beijing. This book is about her experience living in China, working with and dating young Chinese people. She also expounds upon the Chinese relationship with the West, and in particular views of the USA and the ascent of capitalism. If you are interested in China or foreign travel, this might be a book you would like. Check it out.

  • Matt Holloway
    2019-04-01 19:35

    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 sitcom.

  • Lena
    2019-03-23 02:18

    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 personal joureny within her very compelling observations about modern China.

  • Eric Klee
    2019-03-21 22:31

    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 dull history lesson on Chinese government, culture, and word definitions. I'm sure the information presented is fantastic...if that's what you're looking for. I, on the other hand, was looking for humorous stories and adventures in China, a la Chelsea Handler. I felt quite misled by the book's title, summary, praises, and photo on the dust jacket. After 50 pages in, I realized that the memoir wasn't going to be full of lighthearted humor and debauchery as I was led to believe. I gave up and said zài jiàn (goodbye) to Foreign Babes.

  • Jessica Larson-Wang
    2019-04-08 00:38

    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 one written by a young American woman (without a religious agenda), and would recommend it to all female expats in China. Of course, the China she portrays is already a thing of the past, so the book shouldn't be looked at as a commentary on today's post-Olympic "new China," but rather the new China as it really was, back in the days when China was practically a new frontier and anything and everything seemed possible.

  • Dennis
    2019-04-08 00:13

    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 your average expat, however. Armed with a Columbia degree and some knowledge of the Chinese language and people, Rachel seems to meld fairly well into Beijing life right from the start. She rather serendipitously collides early on with an opportunity to star in a Chinese soap opera, Foreign Babes in Beijing, as the rich American girl, Jiexi, who steals the heart of the married Tianling. The role instantly shoots her to stardom and makes her recognizable by the greater part of some 600 million viewers. (Rachel ponders, "It was too huge a number to think about. If we all held hands would we cover the planet?") Rachel utilizes the soap opera role as a device for contextualizing her own experiences as a young western woman living in Beijing vis-à-vis the Chinese' views romanticizing their country's new openness in the world. Throughout her years in Beijing, Rachel easily makes friends with other expatriates and a variety of activists, artists and intellectuals, all who provide her with starkly contrasting approaches and attitudes to a modernizing China. The author's humor is as astute as it is self-deprecating. She offers thoughtful and sometimes cheeky perspectives on everything from Americanized boyfriend Zhou Jun's Jeep that he named Kelindun after the American president (Clinton), to her commanding Ugly American boss Charlotte's insistence on throwing an American Thanksgiving dinner for bewildered and oft-times intimidated Chinese staff, to the fear and uncertainty attendant to the fervent patriotism that swelled amidst the international kerfuffle-cum-crisis NATO provoked when it bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.This book is thoroughly enjoyable and provides a remarkably insightful first-hand view of the rapidly changing, and increasingly important and powerful society of China.

  • Louise
    2019-04-15 00:41

    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 about China. Mostly written by Chinese Americans, the stories they shared were good and usually touching, but after reading so many of them, they soon started melting together in my mind. Foreign Babes, written by a western hand offered a different perspective of China. Sometimes I identified with Rachel, since I’ve lived in the US for most of my life, and sometimes I identified with the Chinese locals.Rachel’s view of China shows Chinese perception of foreigners and their treatment of them. It’s something that I had an inkling of, but not the full details. Each chapter contains an excerpt for the script from the soap opera. Some of them are amusing because of the Chinese stereotype of how foreign women are like.Foreign Babes in Beijing is an entertaining and eye-opening read and is a nice change of pace from the usual books on China written by Chinese Americans. It made me think about moving back there, but not living the typical expatriate life — I’d rather live like a local.

  • Sigrid-marianella
    2019-03-22 22:23

    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 remained the same). How living outside second ring was considered the outskirts of town, and a reference to one of few foreign bars (comparing to the booming nightlife culture today), the suppressed love-relations between foreigners and Chinese (today a common sight). I am always fascinated by the stories told to me by people who lived in Beijing in the 80s and 90s, this book gives you a good insight to the new China on a personal level back in the 90s. If you lived or live in Beijing/China, I am certain you will enjoy this book.

  • Lm Huffman
    2019-03-30 19:18

    Really interesting memoir of a young American woman working in Beijing in the 1990s. I learned a great deal about China and how it has changed since the revolution (and since the 1990s). My only wish is that the title (which comes from the name of a Chinese soap opera in which the author acted) and the picture on the cover wasn't so tawdry - it makes the book sound like it's going to be so much less than it is; which is an insider's account on being an outsider in China, told with intelligence and insight.

  • Erin
    2019-04-06 18:23

    Fun read that goes way beyond hilarious stories of propaganda-making.

  • Bärbel
    2019-03-27 19:32

    Absolutely loved it! Well written and a pleasure to read.

  • Leanne
    2019-03-22 19:13

    Stupid title, stupid cover, thoughtful engagement with China and her position as an outsider during the 90s.

  • Neil Pierson
    2019-04-05 21:18

    With a newly minted BA in English, Rachel DeWoskin moved to China in 1994. China was just beginning to open itself up to commerce with other countries, and foreigners living in China were still relatively uncommon. Although she had studied Chinese and traveled in China, she was looking for an intense, exotic experience. Boy, did she get it.The recurring theme is Rachel trying to figure out what the hell is going on. In spite of her studies and experience, she struggled to understand or speak with the Chinese. (You need to be careful with any language that uses the same word for "business" and "sex." Or one where a minor mispronunciation turns, "My teacher was strict," into "My teacher was castrated.")She lands a job with a public relations firm that helps foreign companies develop their business (as in "business") in China. She doesn't know anything about public relations and not very much about China, so there's a lot for Rachel to figure out. Most of her coworkers aren't much help.Through the merest chance, she is cast in a new TV soap opera called "Foreign Babes in Beijing." For several reasons, Rachel is mostly bewildered. There are her language limitations; she has no experience as an actor, much less in acting as it's done on a Chinese soap opera; and the show is being filmed from the end of the script to the beginning. It's no glamour assignment, either. She gets calls at 3:00 am to show up at the freezing cold studio where she may not even be needed, she's paid far less than her co-stars, and she still has that PR job.The show, it turns out, is about a couple of American women--one played by a German, but who cares?--who fall in love with Chinese men, one of whom is married. To attract viewers, the producers use whatever they can, including the reputation of western women for being "open-minded."* The motives of the government for allowing the show are more mysterious. Maybe they expect that as international commerce grows, there will be an onslaught of foreigners and strange ways, and they want to prepare their people? Or maybe somebody got bribed.The native population doesn't come across very sympathetically, which is a little unusual in this type of book. Most of the Chinese disdain foreigners, resent them, or envy them. Verbal faux pas are not greeted with laughter or explanations. They embarrass the Chinese, who shun the speaker. Rachel spends quite a bit of time with Chinese intellectuals, who have the same complaints about their culture as any other intellectuals.I didn't really connect with this book. Maybe it's because in the period covered, the author never did find solid footing. It's hard to explain something to a reader when the author isn't sure of it herself.* Apparently, Chinese use the same word for "open-minded" and "slutty."

  • Katie
    2019-04-17 00:34

    **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 she wrote this, but it had a lack of personality/depth that I think means it was a long, long time in between her stay and her writing. It felt sort of squashed together; I rarely felt like I had a hold on the sequence of events, and then she'd put in a bunch of facts about China. While these were most certainly useful and interesting, it took me out of her own story at times and I found myself confused as to where we left off. When DeWoskin does show her personality, she . . . kind of annoys me. There's this naivete she puts across that I don't really buy, to be honest. I mean, I think it's reasonable to be overwhelmed by a place so different from where she grew up, but she has this "Aw, shucks!" mentality that was irritating, especially considering her father was a sinologist and she had traveled to China frequently as a kid. This is especially so when she discusses how embarrassed she was by the TV show. Oh, come on. If you didn't want to do it, then fine, don't, but how can you possibly be so awkward? It's like she wants to come off as this awesome adventuress AND a humble, thoughtful foreign girl just trying to sweetly make her way through Beijing. The only reason I'm not just giving it two stars is because I feel like my irritation at the voice was purely subjective. (Edited to say: Perhaps, but the review is my own opinion, so whatevs.) Honestly, if you have an interest in China, this is a light way to start understanding some of the history. The rest is so muddled, though, that I would take her cultural observations with a grain of salt.

  • Karen Germain
    2019-04-17 02:25

    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 characters. This memoir is just plain crazy and impossible to put down. DeWoskin did not move to China with any interest in acting, but went to the audition on a lark and she just seems to go with the flow with regard to experiences and people that come her way. She probably embraces a foreign culture in the best possible way, making many friends that lead her multiple opportunities. She has interesting things to report regarding stereotypes ( both through her TV show and in the general public) and how they can perpetuate false ideas. The stereotypes on the soap opera are often completely ridiculous, but shine a light on how even minor perpetuated falsehoods can cause damage when trying to break down cultural barriers. Sometimes people want to believe what they have been told, rather than listen to the person in front of them and form a real relationship. This is not to say that DeWoskin doesn't form many real relationships with Chinese friends, but she is often finding herself having tread lightly and defend her culture and misrepresentations. This theme is rampant throughout the book. This book was endlessly interesting and a great read if you love memoirs or travel journals.

  • Kathy
    2019-04-15 21:28

    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 events that happened during her tenure in China. The first is the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade by NATO and the ensuing anti-American emotions it caused. The second is the relationships she and her friend have with two Chinese friends that ends in tragic fashion.What I came away with was a real sense of alienness. The Chinese don't understand the Americans and Europeans and seem to disrespect those people and cultures while trying to keep their culture to themselves. It was like, "you don't understand our ways so you're stupid but we won't explain our ways to you so you can know why we think you're stupid". I've no doubt with globalization this is less true today. De Woskin even talked about how much China changed in the few years she was there.Ultimately, I enjoyed the book but I finished it feeling like I wanted more. I couldn't really articulate what that "more" was. One of our book club members said if felt like there was a heavy focus on the beginning adventures with the TV show then skipped to the end with the bombing/love stories. She wanted more of the details in between. Perhaps that's what I was looking for, too.

  • Shanti
    2019-03-22 21:20

    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 the godfather of rock music.--------- “When Kate and I talk about Shi Wei now, we talk about “what happened,” whether Shi Wei meant to drive that drunk, and whether there is a genuine difference between suicide and an accident, if the risk one takes is serious enough to cost his life. Shi Wei, like the rest of us, was spending parts of his life in a fantasy zone. The night he left that Christmas party, maybe he wanted to make a dramatic statement just by leaving. Kate and I do not believe that he wanted to die. If he risked death knowingly, it was because he had no idea that unlike in the movies, his death would last past the credits. The night Shi Wei died was the moment when we all crossed an unacceptable boundary — forgetting what’s real for long enough to lose it permanently.”We all tend to fantasize ourselves in greener pastures, perhaps forgetting the reality which is already lush.

  • Maria
    2019-04-05 01:29

    I found this book a tad difficult to finish. There were a few 'intriguing' parts however, most of it was similar to a history book, delving into historical aspects of China's history. I found these parts difficult to read, and tended to read through them quickly. I wasn't too keen on the biography chapters, which focused on specific individuals from Rachel's life whom she found interesting enough to write a whole chapter on. Needless to say, these chapters were a bit boring to read. I would have liked to read more about Rachel's time on the Chinese soap opera however, this was not written about enough. I felt that I truly didn't 'know' Rachel as a person, as she tended to write more about external factors rather then he true feelings towards a variety of situations. The Chinese soap opera that Rachel starred in does sound interesting however, it is difficult to find online.

  • Pia
    2019-03-25 22:16

    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 story bounded in a specific time and place. I love the part where Rachel describes why the introduction of Microsoft on the Chinese market was a failure. "Micro" and "soft" had been directly translated into Mandarin, and who would like to buy something that is "small" and "floppy"? I had a good time reading this book.

  • Alana Cash
    2019-03-21 02:22

    There's is a lot of interesting information about China in this book, but it's not well structured and it's not clear what it's about. It advertises that it's about a young American woman who works in PR in Beijing and gets invited to star in a Chinese soap opera-style TV program, and the book begins with that theme. But it moves into other themes - politics, dating, etc. and loses steam.It would have been better if the author had written her entire book about one theme with the other interwoven and then written a sequel memoir about the other themes in Beijing. But instead, she's sort of all over the place writing about people and events so that there's no tension or consistent flow to the story. I got lost as to what year she was writing about and how she had developed relationships with different people.

  • Lizzy (Bent Bookworm)
    2019-03-26 20:35

    I loved this book. It was the perfect cure for the book hangover I had when I begged a group of friends for recommendations. Even though the author's experience takes place about 20 years prior to my own, her descriptions are SO relatable - even though she was in China and I'm in South Korea. Of course the political scene is quite different, but that's only touched on a few times in the book (mostly over the bombing of the Chinese embassy). She's honest and entertaining. "The meeting reminded me that I was not qualified to do anything other than write academic essays." (the author, after she graduates with a B.A. in English) Yep. Been there done that. Oops, what did I do with 4 years of my life?!? This, along with so many of her feelings as a foreigner trying to make her way in a new country. Also her descriptions of trying to be sexy for a Chinese audience. Priceless.

  • Meri
    2019-03-22 20:17

    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 assuming that all Americans act the same, but times 100 because she's famous. In the mean time, she develop relationships with a few Beijing residents, both Chinese and expat, and watches the ancient city develop at light speed.

  • Anne
    2019-04-04 23:29

    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 came during a period of enormous societal transformation and her stories of her personal experiences and insightful reflections on modern China are often humorous but always fascinating. She is an astute observer and a brilliant writer. I loved this book.

  • Maura
    2019-03-28 23:25

    On the Lonely Planet China recommended reading listThe 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 (paraphrased from memory):Chinese guy: America has terrible human rights.Rachael: What do you mean, America has terrible human rights?Chinese guy: President Clinton isn't even allowed to have a mistress. What kind of human rights is that?

  • Kristen
    2019-04-06 00:29

    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 American trying to communicate with Chinese, not just because of the language but because of the traditions of their people.

  • Margaret Sankey
    2019-04-05 21:23

    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 years ago now, I'd like some epilogue or update about how much more things have changed--would Chinese companies and audiences be so desperate for any American contact?

  • Sharon Li
    2019-04-02 21:19

    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 books on China. This is a fun and lighthearted read where one gets a view of the quirky side of Chinese culture.

  • Merredith
    2019-04-20 18:31

    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, i did go to youtube and saw part of the actual show. funny but better than i expected given the descriptions in the book!

  • Mariefitriani
    2019-04-07 22:41

    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 because it truly showed how she felt about living in China, how much she appreciated the experience. I enjoyed it, as much as I enjoy many travelogues.

  • Leila
    2019-04-07 01:40

    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 that my sister and mother fought over who would get it next.