PERSONAL: Born in Kyoto, Japan; married; children: one. Education: Columbia University, B.A. (with honors); Boston University, M.A., 2000. Hobbies and other interests: Karate and composing music (particularly rap songs).
ADDRESSES: Home—New York, NY; Beijing, China. Office—AGNI Magazine, Boston University Writing Program, 236 Bay State Rd., Boston, MA 02215.
CAREER: Writer, educator, and actor. AGNI magazine, associate poetry editor; Boston University, writing instructor.
Worked variously as a consultant and an account executive at a public relations firm in Beijing, China, and as an actor. Appeared in Foreign Babes in Beijing (Chinese soap opera), and Restless (movie), 2000.
AWARDS, HONORS: American Academy of Poets Award, 2000; Grolier Poetry Prize, 2002.
Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China (memoir), W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor of poetry and articles to Boston Globe, Seneca Review, New Delta Review, Nerve, Boston, Ann Arbor Observer, Drumvoices Revue, Ploughshares, and Teachers and Writers.
SIDELIGHTS: Rachel DeWoskin was born in Japan to a sinologist father and English-teacher mother, DeWoskin grew up mainly in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but spent summers in Taiwan and China. After graduating with honors from Columbia University in 1994, DeWoskin decided to return to China. She took a job at an American public-relations firm and was just getting settled in Beijing when a friend urged her to audition for a part in a new soap opera, Foreign Babes in Beijing. The show dealt with the adventures and misadventures of a pair of American students in China. Fluent in Mandarin, DeWoskin decided to give it a try and landed the part of Jessie. With 600 million viewers, the soap opera made DeWoskin a celebrity in Beijing. As Bob Young noted in Transpacific, the author's "life changed overnight: Suddenly, she was hounded by adoring crowds, signing endless autographs, posing for photos with locals, her face splashed all over Chinese entertainment magazines."
A full decade after her participation in the television show and having moved back to the United States, DeWoskin wrote an account of her time as an actress on a Chinese soap opera. The result was the 2005 memoir Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China. According to Salon.com reviewer Christine Smallwood, the book is "a diaristic account of her experiences abroad interwoven with musings on Chinese and American politics and pop culture."
Smallwood stated that DeWoskin had the "perspective to collapse the personal and political to great, and occasionally hilarious, effect." A critic for Kirkus Reviews found DeWoskin "a charming, rather humble narrator, and her prose is as gripping as the content." The same contributor went on to note that DeWoskin's "babe's-eye view turns out to be surprisingly substantive." Library Journal reviewer Susan G. Baird stated that the book is a "highly entertaining and enlightening memoir." Similarly, a reviewer for People called the book an "intelligent, funny memoir." In her review of the memoir for Women's Wear Daily, Vanessa Lawrence commented that the "book captures the city's bustle … the dynamics of her group of young Chinese hipsters grappling with sex, love and work."
DeWoskin, also a poet, told Smallwood she tried to maintain an objective approach in her book. "I tried not to generalize so much in the book. One of the things I came to think, not only while living there but also while writing the book, is that writers ask questions and propagandists answer them. So I never felt like I was in a position to answer questions about China particularly."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
DeWoskin, Rachel, Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2005.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2005, review of Foreign Babes in Beijing, p. 209.
Library Journal, April 1, 2005, Susan G. Baird, review of Foreign Babes in Beijing, p. 116.
People, June 6, 2005, review of Foreign Babes in Beijing, p. 49.
Publishers Weekly, March 28, 2005, review of Foreign Babes in Beijing, p. 66.
Transpacific, October, 1996, Bob Young, "Foreign Babe in Beijing," p. 12.
Women's Wear Daily, May 9, 2005, Vanessa Lawrence, "The China Syndrome," review of Foreign Babes in Beijing, p. 20.
Boston University AGNI Web site, http://www.bu.edu/agni/ (June 29, 2005), brief profile of author.
GoldSea.com, http://goldsea.com/ (June 29, 2005), "White Babe in Beijing."
Salon.com, http://www.salon.com/ (May 17, 2005), Christine Smallwood, "China Girl."