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Rachel DeWoskin

Born: 1972 in Kyoto, Japan
Pen Name: None

Connection to Illinois: DeWoskin teaches fiction at the University of Chicago.

Biography: Rachel DeWoskin graduated from Columbia University and moved to Beijing to work in Public Relations but ended up starring in the hit Chinese soap opera ''Foreign Babes in Beijing''. After spending time there and returning to the US, she earned a masters in poetry from Boston University and published a memoir about her experiences on the Chinese soap, which had 600 million viewers. DeWoskin's memoir is currently in production with HBO. Currently, DeWoskin is on the fiction faculty of the University of Chicago and is an affiliated faculty member in Jewish studies and East Asian Studies.

  • Repeat After Me Book of the Year, Forward Magazine, 1989
  • Big Girl Small Top Three Books, Newsday, 2011; Alex Award, American Library Association, 2012
  • Blind Library Guild Selection; Starred Review, Kirkus; ILLINOIS READS Book Selection, Illinois Reading Council, 2016
  • Someday We Will Fly Sydney Taylor Book Award for Young Adults, Association of Jewish Libraries, 2020; Starred Review, Kirkus and Booklist

Primary Literary Genre(s): Fiction; History; Poetry

Primary Audience(s): Adult readers; Young adult readers


Selected Titles

absolute animal
ISBN: 0226829057 OCLC:

University of Chicago Press 2023

Experimenting with time, language, and transgressing boundaries, the poems in absolute animal lean into Nabokov’s notion that precision belongs to poetry and intuition to science. Rachel DeWoskin’s new collection navigates the chaos of societal and mortal uncertainty. Through formal poetry, DeWoskin finds sense amid disorder and unearths connections between the animal and the human, between the ancient and the contemporary, and between languages, incorporating translations from poems dating as far back as the Tang dynasty. From sonnet sequences about heart surgeries to examinations of vole romance and climate change, absolute animal investigates and moves across boundaries and invites us to consider what holds life, what lasts, what dies, and what defines and enriches the experience of being human.

ISBN: 1948340119 OCLC: 1056778532

Samantha Baxter has a full, sane life--creative job, lovely family, and all the trappings of middle-age happiness. But when she gets a diagnosis that terrifies her, a lifetime of polite pleasing and putting others first ignites in her a surprising, pure rage.

Big Girl Small
ISBN: 0374112576 OCLC: 650212498

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York : 2011.

With a singing voice that can shake an auditorium, Judy should be the star of Darcy Academy, the local performing arts high school. So why is a girl this promising hiding out in a seedy motel room on the edge of town? A scathingly funny and moving book about dreams and reality, at once light on its feet and profound.

ISBN: 0670785229 OCLC: 862575284

After a horrific accident leaves her blind, fifteen-year-old Emma, one of seven children, eagerly starts high school as a sophomore, and finds that nearly everything has changed--sometimes for the better.

Foreign Babes in Beijing :
ISBN: 0393328597 OCLC: 57422307

W.W. Norton, New York : ©2005.

DeWoskin moved to Beijing in 1989, just as China's younger population began embracing Western ideologies and commodities. An executive for an American PR firm by day, by night DeWoskin became the star of one of China's first television soap operas, a melodrama involving a sexy American college student who wins the love of a rebellious young Chinese man. The merging of two worlds onscreen is nothing compared to the cultural assimilation DeWoskin observes within China itself in the years immediately following Tiananmen Square. Her memoir weaves humorous tales of culture clashes with astute observations of a traditional and repressed society's tumultuous confrontation with liberated, energetic, and economically dynamic Western influences.

Repeat After Me
ISBN: 1590202228 OCLC: 276819720

Overlook Press, New York : 2009.

Aysha Silvermintz is a marginally neurotic, sublimely needy young instructor of English to immigrants in Manhattan?s Upper West Side. Her student Da Ge is an intriguingly taciturn, softly menacing Chinese national who came to the U.S. in the wake of the Tiananmen Square uprisings. What they lack in fluid communication skills they more than make up for in shared emotional fragility, born of family tragedies and personal failures. Aysha falls instantly and secretly in love with Da Ge, long before he bluntly asks her to marry him so he can become a U.S. citizen. Aysha becomes pregnant, but before she can tell him, Da Ge commits suicide just days before his citizenship is finalized. Determined to understand what plagued this tortured, enigmatic man, Aysha moves to China, where she?ll raise the daughter he never knew.--From Booklist.

Repeat After Me: A Novel
ISBN: 1590203305 OCLC: New York :

The Overlook Press New York : 2011

Aysha is a twenty-two-year-old New Yorker recovering from her parents' divorce and a nervous breakdown. Everything changes when the young Chinese dissident, Da Ge, enrolls in her English class hot on the heels of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Improbably and inescapably in love with Da Ge, Aysha ends up pulled in directions she never expected. Richly textured and full of sharp cross-cultural observations, Repeat After Me plunges the reader into a persuasive tale about love, loss, and language.

ISBN: 0147508916 OCLC: 1105148232

Warsaw, Poland. The year is 1940 and Lillia is fifteen when her mother, Alenka, disappears and her father flees with Lillia and her younger sister, Naomi, to Shanghai, one of the few places that will accept Jews without visas. There they struggle to make a life; they have no money, there is little work, no decent place to live, a culture that doesn't understand them. And always the worry about Alenka. How will she find them? Is she still alive? Meanwhile Lillia is growing up, trying to care for Naomi, whose development is frighteningly slow, in part from malnourishment. Lillia finds an outlet for her artistic talent by making puppets, remembering the happy days in Warsaw when her family was circus performers. She attends school sporadically, makes friends with Wei, a Chinese boy, and finds work as a performer at a "gentlemen's club" without her father's knowledge. But meanwhile the conflict grows more intense as the Americans declare war and the Japanese force the Americans in Shanghai into camps. More bombing, more death. Can they survive, caught in the crossfire?

Two Menus
ISBN: 022668217X OCLC: 1104872961

There are two menus in a Beijing restaurant, Rachel DeWoskin writes in the title poem, “the first of excess, / second, scarcity.” DeWoskin invites us into moments shaped by dualities, into spaces bordered by the language of her family (English) and that of her new country (Chinese), as well as the liminal spaces between youth and adulthood, safety and danger, humor and sorrow. This collection works by building and demolishing boundaries and binaries, sliding between their edges in movements that take us from the familiar to the strange and put us face-to-face with our assumptions and confusions. Through these complex and interwoven poems, we see how a self is never singular. Rather, it is made up of shifting—and sometimes colliding—parts. DeWoskin crosses back and forth, across languages and nations, between the divided parts in each of us, tracing overlaps and divergences. The limits and triumphs of translation, the slipperiness of relationships, and movements through land and language rise and fall together. The poems in Two Menus offer insights into the layers of what it means to be human, to reconcile living as multiple selves. DeWoskin dives into the uncertain spaces, showing us how a life lived between walls is murky, strange, and immensely human. These poems ask us how to communicate across the boundaries that threaten to divide us, to measure and close the distance between who we are, were, and want to be.