Mr. Ding’s Chicken Feet

MR. DING’S CHICKEN FEET was published in September 2006 by the University of Wisconsin Press. The New York Times Review of Books called it a notable travel book of the year.

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What the reviewers say

New York Times review
Gillian Kendall confesses that she doesn’t much like ”male attention and sexuality,” which seem ”intrusive and aggressive.” So you anticipate disaster when she’s hired to teach English to Chinese sailors — the only woman (and one of only two Americans) on board a dilapidated ship chartered for an oil survey in the Gulf of Mexico. But in MR. DING’S CHICKEN FEET: On a Slow Boat From Shanghai to Texas (Terrace/University of Wisconsin, paper, $22.95), she survives a monster storm, predatory Panamanians and the glutinous cuisine of Mr. Ding, the ship’s cook, and even finds herself attracted to one of her students. Kendall’s energetic yet unvarnished style, vaguely off-putting on dry land, settles comfortably into appealing descriptions of shipboard life and her growing rapport with the crew. Although the emphasis of the lessons she conducts in the ship’s smoke-filled bar is highly practical (”What is this?” ”Sca-da-da.” ”Yes, O.K., try again. Screwdriver.”), she’s amazed when the steward, thanks to diligent sessions with special tapes, hits the end of the voyage sounding like an English butler. But this achievement may be threatened when he and his mates come within range of American television: ”What is Ninja Turtles?” What does mean, ‘hyper?’ ”

Booklist review
Hold on to your seat as you travel with cosmopolitan English graduate student Kendall, the sole woman aboard a Chinese ship. Kendall’s adventure begins with a flier and a help-wanted ad: “English as a Second Language (ESL) Teacher Needed.” Intrigued, she answers the ad and soon finds herself accompanying a cruise from Shanghai to Galveston, Texas, teaching ESL en route to Chinese seamen, ship’s officers, and mechanical engineers. And that’s just the beginning! English lessons, of course, are only part of the story. The fundamentals of intercultural communication are at the heart of this fast-paced journey. Self-discovery is also central. Readers will learn about the Chinese system of manners, dietary customs, ships’ rolls, seasickness, student-teacher relations, and hunger for knowledge. Time zones will be crossed, and the ocean will not always look the same. This is enjoyable through and through. Sarah Watstein
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Advocate blurb

Stanford Magazine review
Shelf Life

Pacific Rim Review of Books
Post Colonial Encounters

Kathika Travel Book Review

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