A memoir chronicling the education of a naïve American law school exchange student in Amsterdam in the late 1990s.
In a book that the author describes as part tragicomedy, part “survival guide,” Hollywood entertainment attorney Wienir (Making It on Broadway, 2004, etc.) chronicles his experiences during his third year at the University of California, Berkeley, law school, during which he moved to the Netherlands for a four-month semester. Although the purpose of his sojourn was to get legal experience abroad, Wienir also had intentions to write a book about Amsterdam’s notorious red-light district. He was hoping to dispel widespread misconceptions about it and offer a closer look into the area and its workers. After several weeks of culture shock, he learned a lot more than just the Dutch language.
The wonderfully curious author describes the city as a “wonderland” of cannabis coffee shops, bicycle culture, and historical regions. He offers accounts of his adventures attempting to chat up sex workers for his book project (most rejected his offer) and excitedly befriending new drinking buddies. But he also offers astute observations, opinions, and an insider’s perspective on Amsterdam’s city-sanctioned prostitution. He brings his stories of sex workers—such as Emma, with whom he became emotionally connected—to vivid life with recollections of impassioned conversation and well-meaning friendship, and the overall tone never lapses into pity or judgment.
Overall, Wienir is a delightfully frank tour guide, uniquely describing the district (including its 10 unspoken “commandments”) and drawing readers deep inside its sexy, neon-lit world. However, this book is not for the timid; the author doesn’t skimp on the details of his subjects’ professional escapades, nor does he underplay the emotional impact of his time in Amsterdam.
A provocative, enlightening, humorous, and impressively executed guide to Amsterdam’s twilight world.