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Amsterdam Exposed

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Had to quit this book. Just did not draw me in and there are simply too many good books to read. Felt creepy to me and I am not sure why, but the feeling was one I did not need to pursue any longer.

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I'm going to be honest this book was not my cup of tea. Was it fascinating? Absolutely. Raw? For sure. Surprising? Yes! Old fashioned? One hundred percent. If you're ever in Amsterdam, you know it is both seedy and squeaky clean. I feel like the author is doing this country a disservice by not showcasing Amsterdam of new but the ones from his horrifying memories. Instead of being a lawyer; he writes a highly inappropriate etou of a prostitute in the red light district: her name is Emma. And her story is true. But it is far too graphic for me and honestly mind-numbing awful. Not for faint of heart. If you read this, enjoy it...I pray for you.

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It is a very hard book to review, in that, it's just...not going to be everybody's cup of tea. If you are under eighteen and thinking of reading it, just don't. I am not tempting you into reading it, that is not what this is, it simply isn't the book for you.

I think the problem with Amsterdam Exposed is the fact that it all happened quite a while ago. A lot has changed since then. Even if I were to discount that, there's also the matter of the way author went about the whole thing. I just couldn't understand why he went to such lengths to do those things, in the end, all we get is just one story of a person who went through a lot. There is a certain lack of sympathy and understanding of the bigger picture. Or maybe that was how the author intended it to be. A singular focus on the problem.

Overall, I loved the way he wrote? His detailed writing is what drew me in, I always love it when authors write with such detail. I also loved the way he used the Dutch language, I have absolutely no knowledge of the language but a friend helped me out. All in all, this book was an eye-opener and not particularly in a good way but if you are interested in getting know Amsterdam, then go for it, it is worth reading.

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*Advanced reading copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*
4 stars.
David Wienir is now a business affairs executive and entertainment law instructor at UCLA Extension.
‘Amsterdam exposed’ will be coming out on May 1st 2018, but the events in it take place in last 1990s, when the author is an exchange student in Amsterdam. Where does he get idea for a book about prostitution? After his first semester at Berkeley, the author and his friends go to to Reno, where a witty taxi driver takes him and his friends to the most famous brothel in the world, even if they doesn't ask for it. Once inside, Sarah, one of the girls, offers David an innocent tour. Once in Amsterdam, David doeths his idea which, after 18 years become this book. In his semester abroad he walks De Wallen's street, the largest and best known red-light district of the town, every nights, hoping to write a book about the infamous district. He wants to write a book from the reader's perspective, find a girl who wants to tell the truth, without money exchanging hands. Although Oliver, is neighbor across says the girls 'in the window', will not allow him in their workplace for free, night after night David keeps on walking De Wallen’s street, keep on knocking on the windows, keep on making clear that all he wants is write his book without "judgment on the world of prostitution", that he doesn't want sleeps with the girls. And the girls keep on shutting the door on his face. Only one girl doesn’t shut her door at his request; she doesn’t ask him for “50 guilders”. Emma: a girl in her early twenties seems to want help him. But no time is a good time for helping David with his book, whereas anytime's the right time for a paying costumer. But David feels a connection with this girl, and, in his last night in Holland, Emma allows him in her home, her true home, and gives him her story.
This is not an easy book, but everyone should read it. I like re-live Amsterdam, read about ‘getting a bike’, the Dutch people’s temper…
Wienir really writes "a story of the search for innocence”. It’s not easy to write about one of the most famous tourist attractions in the world without giving in to the temptation to experience the miscellaneous attrattives of ‘Amsterdam’s windows’. Once in Amsterdam, everybody does the tour in the red-light-district, for different reasons. I did it too. And, believe me, as a woman, it was not easy. I have two conflicting thoughts about prostitution at the same time. it rips my guts out every time I see a prostitute in the street, even during the day. Then I think that It's good that there were brothels, red-light-districts, and so on, ‘cause then the girls are warm, safe from violence, but then again I think that every single one of those women has a sad life story. A story that everyone can easily imagine: an unhappy childhood in a troubled family, a life penniless. The author, when he manages to ask Emma about her life, searching for something positive, he asks her if she ever have good days 'in the window', if she is ever happy, Emma says "No. How can you be happy if you have to sell your body? That's why I sometimes use drugs, to look happy."
If you want to if, at the end, Emma reaches happiness, all you gotta do is read ‘Amsterdam exposed’. You really should read it.

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Spoilers ahead:

As you can see, I was very engaged in the story of Emma and David. Their will-they-or-won't-they story felt like good fiction writing (as in, an extremely unlikely romance, with huge obstacles), and the end broke my heart. The author's attempt at viewing the red light district and its inhabitants through an anthropological lens was less successful than his account of his romance with Emma. To me, it would've read better as a straightforward memoir of his experiences while abroad than trying to shoehorn greater cultural implications into it, as he really didn't amass any sort of study group. His observations, therefore, are primarily that the women refuse to talk to him. He's unable to glean much, if any, information from the girls, aside from Emma. This would've been fine, had he not tried to take Emma's experience and generalize it, so that he could still say something larger about the state of sex workers at large. The epilogue also left me with a sour taste in my mouth, as it just seems too preachy, too Grimm's fairy tales "here's the moral of the story", which I think was due to the author's own lack of trust in his work. As if he didn't feel confident that his account was strong enough to impart those lessons, so he had to spell them out.

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This travel memoir is about a young man studying to become a lawyer and his summer spent interning in Amsterdam. While there David decides to write a book about the woman who work the "red light district". Shockingly true and rather graphic at times you read about the life of women in the district and the life of Emma, the young prostitute who he befriends to help him with the book. If you are easily offended by the truth of a young prostitute's life you may not want to read this book.

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Amsterdam Exposed is not an easy book to review. Part of that is because I’m Dutch and I had my orange-tinted goggles on while reading the book. First of all, I must say the attention to detail when it came to Amsterdam was incredible. David Wienir’s use of the Dutch language was also flawless. At some points I found it a bit difficult to believe the events in the book, but at other times I realised that people who are not born with orange-tinted goggles could interpret certain events the same way as Wienir does. Having said that, I really must correct one misconception: when the euro was introduced in 2002, prices didn’t double. 1 euro was valued at roughly 2.20 guilders and prices were converted accordingly. Companies who tried to use the introduction of the euro as a way to sneakily hike their prices were fined.

Let me now take off my orange-tinted goggles and have a look at the actually story of the book. And that’s also where the first major issue appears. In 1999 Wienir went to Amsterdam to study at a Dutch university for a term and also to write a book about the red light district. I never understood what he wanted to achieve with his book, or even what type of book he intended to write. His research mainly consisted of hanging around the area and trying to get prostitutes to talk to him while they were trying to work. Not only does that not seem a very unscientific approach to me, but it also isn’t very respectable towards women who are trying to make a living. Another thing that bothered me that Weinir doesn’t take his own views on prostitution into consideration. Those views clearly colour his impressions of what he encounters on de wallen but he never questions his own ideas. To me it seemed he thought prostitutes were all unhappy and needed to be rescued. However, he doesn’t back this up with any facts. He also never discusses very relevant topics such as women forced into prostitution by other people (and human trafficking) or other circumstances (poverty). The power of pimps and the owners of the windows is completely ignored as well. Instead we have the story of a 20-something year old American guy who spends some time in Amsterdam drinking, smoking weed and harassing prostitutes. His idea of being subjective involves not sleeping with prostitutes and not paying for information. He manages to convince one prostitute to talk to him and her story is an interesting read. But without the context of other stories, it lacks value. Its main function also seems to show the author is different from all the other guys hanging around de wallen, because there was a real connection between him and the woman. The epilogue is rather ridiculous in this respect. I also didn’t appreciate the remarks about Chinese men.

All in all, I was not impressed with this book. The fact that it takes place almost 20 years ago and things have changed a lot since then does not help either. 2 stars.

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David Wienir is an LA entertainment lawyer, who has authored four books. Although this is the most recent one he's published, he started writing it back in 1999 as a law school student prowling Amsterdam's Red Light District for literary content. It surprises me that Wienir waited 18 years to release this, in the midst of Mansplaining, the #MeToo movement, and all the Harvey Weinstein fallout, without referencing or even seeming to be aware of any of it. Wienir gives political-correctness a wide berth, with a couple mentions of midgets, Eurotrash, and ridiculing Chinese anatomy.

I wish he'd done more research, rather than basing the book on his subjective view: Amsterdam may be the most beautiful city in Europe, and possibly the world... looking back, it's safe to say about 20% of the women were gorgeous, 50% attractive, and the remaining 30% not-sogood... I often found myself standing face to face with some of the creepiest guys ever... the prettiest girl... we passed one beautiful girl after another who didn't seem to belong there. Almost all of them were stunning... No one would have guessed I was walking with a prostitute. In that moment, she was just a normal girl... "Don't look at me like that," she said adoringly.

Wienir claims to have written this about the inherent worth of the individual, "it was never my intention to pass judgment on the world of prostitution, it was my intention to cast new light on the red light district and the women who work there. I never thought of myself as being above any of the women in the district, just differently situated." Wienir makes numerous references to the Dutch people's purported stinginess, while describing near-violent altercations he had with wait staffers over things like napkins and complimentary cookies. He also admits to "eating far too many peanuts at the bar" of a bordello he doesn't pay for sex at, and when he finally finds the one sex-worker in Amsterdam willing to let him interview her (about how unbearable the work is, how terrible the hours, the toll it takes on her life and well-being, and how it's all about the money) he lets her pay for the meal they share.

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The thing with Amsterdam Exposed is that it’s such a well meaning book, it’s difficult to disparage it in any way. But then again, not impossible, so…well, it’s ok, it really is. It’s about a 26 year old American law student who goes to Amsterdam for a semester to study abroad, but mainly with a view to write a book about the prostitution situation there. Don’t smirk, it’s surprisingly unseedy and almost overwhelmingly sincere. No money exchanges, he wants someone to voluntarily tell him their story and after much searching and negotiation he finds the one and something like the final quarter of a book is just a really sad story of a young woman who ends up as the girl in one of the windows in the Red District. And yes, this is a real story, a real experience of the author (a man with a stunningly variegated career) from 1999. So it’s something of a mash up of sociology and a travelogue, though it works nicer as the latter, you get an interesting if somewhat dated look at one of the best (well, it is, isn’t it) cities in the world. The heavy handed moral in the epilogue one can do without. Then again everyone has their thoughts and views on prostitution, it’s certainly been around long enough. The writing is serviceable, but the language can get somewhat stilted, the man’s a lawyer by training, not a born storyteller, the book does read like it was written by a young man, so in that way it does indeed do justice to the author’s 1999 perspective. I enjoyed the armchair trip to Amsterdam, it’s a lovely destination, far more so than my previous one of Lagos, so that part was nice and it was a quick and easy read. Thanks Netgalley.

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Firstly, I have to warn potential readers that this book contains frank discussions and detailed descriptions about adult issues and is 100% NOT SUITABLE FOR READERS UNDER THE AGE OF EIGHTEEN.

** This book also contains details of several trauma triggers. Included topics include drug use, rape, child abuse, suicidal thoughts, and detailed sexual encounter descriptions.**

The author began working on this book in 1999 when he was in Law school; studying in Amsterdam for a semester.

Anyone who has ever given thought to Amsterdam has to admit to being at least mildly curious about its "coffee shops" and it's notorious "Red Light District." Author David Wienir was curious as well, and had gone to Amsterdam not only to study Law,  but also with the express intent to write a book about it's prostitutes and how they had ended up 'working the windows'.

This initially sounded to me like a young, red-blooded male giving himself an excuse to visit and obtain the services of prostitutes under the guise of writing a book. That supposition was quickly proven wrong. David was serious about his book and, early on, he set firm rules for himself which included not paying prostitutes to talk and never becoming a "customer" no matter how much he might have been tempted.

The book details his difficulty in finding women who were interested in being part of his book - for free, and also explains his eventual luck in finding a prostitute who was willing to open up to him.

In addition to David's writing for his book, he also describes his time in Amsterdam - the friends he met,  the adventures they had and the places they visited. This book is part travelogue, part exposé and all riveting.

David Wienir has crafted an extremely readable tale that will both fascinate and horrify readers in equal measure.
Whatever your thoughts are regarding the morality of prostitution, this book is something that everyone should read.

I guarantee AMSTERDAM EXPOSED will make you think more deeply on many issues and since the events chronicled in this tome take place twenty years in the past, readers will be be transported to an earlier, more carefree era.

I rate this book as 4 out of 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐ and commend David Wienir for having the courage and compassion to write about a topic that most people pretend not to see.

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