Amsterdam Exposed

An American’s Journey Into The Red Light District

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Pub Date 01 May 2018 | Archive Date 02 Jul 2018

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Amsterdam Exposed tells the true one-of-a-kind story of an innocent exchange student who moves to Amsterdam hoping to write a book about the red light district and everything that follows. It’s an American abroad story, and also a love story; it’s an uplifting tragedy, full of humor from beginning to end; it’s an Amsterdam survival guide; a sympathetic look at a societal problem; a little piece of policy; a sweet farewell to a world just about gone; and, ultimately, as close as you can come to a free trip to Amsterdam without leaving your couch.  In sum, Amsterdam Exposed takes readers deep into the district on a journey never before possible, forever reshaping their understanding of one of the most famous tourist attractions in the world, and the women who work there. If you’ve ever spent time in Amsterdam, or dreamed of doing so, this book’s for you. 

Amsterdam Exposed tells the true one-of-a-kind story of an innocent exchange student who moves to Amsterdam hoping to write a book about the red light...

A Note From the Publisher

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Wienir is a business affairs executive at United Talent Agency and entertainment law instructor at UCLA Extension. Before UTA, he practiced law at two of the top entertainment law firms where he represented clients such as Steven Spielberg and Madonna. His previous books include Last Time: Labour’s Lessons from the Sixties (co-authored with a Member of Parliament at the age of 23), The Diversity Hoax: Law Students Report from Berkeley (afterword by Dennis Prager), and Making It on Broadway: Actors’ Tales of Climbing to the Top (foreword by Jason Alexander).

Educated at Columbia, Oxford, The LSE, Berkeley Law, and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, David is married to Dr. Dina, a pioneer of the medical cannabis movement and the inspiration for the Nancy Botwin character in the show Weeds. They live in West Hollywood with their teacup Brazilian Yorkie named Lola.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Wienir is a business affairs executive at United Talent Agency and entertainment law instructor at UCLA Extension. Before UTA, he practiced law at two of the top entertainment...

Advance Praise


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.


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...

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Available Editions

EDITION Paperback
ISBN 9780999355909
PRICE $12.95 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

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Average rating from 34 members

Featured Reviews

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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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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*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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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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Amsterdam Exposed is an intriguing and intimate memoir following an American's Journey into the Red Light District. During his studies in Amsterdam in the late 90’s, David Wienir has the aspiration to write a book about the district and everything involved with it, hoping to open the minds of the readers and help with their understanding of the district and the women who work there.

David takes the readers on an adventure through the condemned and misunderstood district from an innocent and curious perspective, seeking answers to the questions most people have not sought. It is a story of hope, a story that is in search of innocence in such a stigmatized area and a story that definitely opens the minds of the readers.

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Firstly I wanted to say thankyou for such an amazing read the book was such an enthralling insight into Amsterdam a place I would like to visit a book I will recommend as a must read especially if a visit to Amsterdam is planned thankyou again for such a great book

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Amsterdam exposed felt like coming back for another visit to Amsterdam. It was exactly how I had experienced the city in previous visits.

David Wienir's description of how he wanders the streets of Amsterdam are very realistic and similar to what every tourist would experience. The big difference is when he finally finds a prostitute that is actually willing to share her experiences and how she got into prostitution with him.

Since I grew up in Germany where prostitution is more or less legal and sex is discussed in books or TV a lot more frequent it was a tame read for me. It never discussed forced prostitution and the dealing with very "weird and pervert" requests of customers. Nevertheless it was an interesting and fascinating insight into one of the oldest and "most mysterius" professions in the world.

I wish there would have been stories from more than one woman... but it is a great read that takes you right into the streets, bars, brothels and narrow alleys with its famous windows of the Amsterdams red light district.

It was a quick and easy read that captured my interest from the first page to the last.

I requested this book from NetGalley and am thankful that Smith Publicity and the author provided me with an advance copy.

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As a traveler and travel blogger I am an advocate for intense research before a trip. It’s not just about researching the “how to” of a trip, but also immersing in the culture and history of a place, to truly feel what makes it unique and worth visiting. Novels, memoirs and movies are great ways to do this.

In Amsterdam Exposed, Author David Wienir engages the reader in a world in which many are curious but might be afraid or unwilling to explore. His engaging and descriptive writing style draws the reader in to a raw and graphic existence most of us don’t think much about. Yet, he tells an intensely human story vividly, and with great compassion. His goal is not just to satisfy curiosity, but to create understanding.

The story takes place in 1999 as an American university student spends a semester studying in Amsterdam and researching the Red-Light district. The book gives recent historical perspective for travelers going to Amsterdam, but will equally engage the armchair traveler with no prospects of ever visiting the Netherlands.

It is filled with tragedy, comedy, and love. All great elements of a captivating read.
Because of its graphic subject matter and honest narrative, this is an “adult only” book, and is only recommended for mature adults.
Victoria Hart

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Forget Frommer's or Berlitz, Amsterdam Exposed reads part tour guide, mostly social commentary in the author's memoir of his time spent in Holland as a college student, as he tries to collect material for his latest book he wants to write. The author encounters a colorful cast of characters and becomes educated on the myriad of lifestyles and customs in the European city. The author does finally get his interview from a subject who works in the red light district; they develop a bond bordering on tentative friendship that deepens as they develop trust. The author does a good job of pulling the reader in and identifying with him in his day to day routine. The reader has to be very open minded with the subject matter in order to grasp the message of his story. I hope Emma's story truly had a happy ending and she didn't return to her former lifestyle.
I received a galley/ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Almost twenty years in the making is Amsterdam Exposed before author David Wienir finally presents his story of the renowned Red Light District, where tourists “come for the weed, stay for the hookers.” Nonetheless, Wienir makes it easy to be drawn into turn-of-the-millenium Amsterdam, as he spends his Thursdays studying international law at Vrije University and his six-day weekends trying to get window girls to talk to him. Amsterdam Exposed is an alluring memoir giving a glimpse down the streets illuminated by red lanterns, as well as into the man who teaches respect for the women who work there.

Wienir opens his memoir having just arrived in Holland for a fall semester studying international law abroad. Wienir brings with him an ulterior motive to write a book about the Red Light District, inspired by a prostitute in Reno who told him that “people forget we’re human,” a year and a half prior. Over the next four months, Wienir sets off to find prostitutes willing to help him with his book, and keeps a code for himself: never pay a prostitute to talk, and never sleep with one. He’s turned down by every woman he encounters except for two, only one of whom actually comes to help Wienir.

Emma is a twenty-five-year-old prostitute from Estonia. She lives two lives in that she does not allow her work life and her personal life to overlap. When Wienir meets Emma in the District, Emma is interested in befriending him, but does not readily talk to Wienir about her work. Wienir devotes time to building Emma’s trust in himself, and eventually reaches Emma while unknowingly invoking change in Emma’s personal outlook.

Wienir actively writes in a voice that weaves the then-current state of Amsterdam with his own story of his time spent. He creates rich and descriptive settings that shine on Wienir’s professional background, effortlessly leading the reader to think of Wienir’s voice as a lawyer in the future casually telling his story over the wining-and-dining of his own law associates. Amsterdam Exposed confidently takes a risqué topic out of a captivating environment and places it in one that is approachable, adventurous, and thought-provoking.

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David Wienir has a way with words. His Amsterdam Exposed is easy and pleasant to read.

Repeatedly, he asks what and why it is that women who make or made money by selling their bodies are seen less than humans. In society, it seems not abnormal to make disparaging comments about prostitutes or sex workers.

Too bad he is not that persistent when it comes to people (exclusively men in this book) who pay to have sex, but who are not regarded with slander. Who don't have to deal with contemptuous behavior.

He throws facts and figures around like people feeding the pigeons at Dam Square. Unfortunately, when referring to the red light district De Wallen, he narrows his storyline down to anecdotal information. And even though part of his story is heart breaking, David Wienir fails to reproduce statistics regarding human trafficking, slavery and underage sex workers in this story.

That said, I really enjoyed Wienir's description of Amsterdam at the end of the last millennium. Most of it is accurate and apart from the serious subject it was funny and lighthearted in a good way.

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This was actually a pretty decent book. I enjoy reading these types of books but up until now, my interest has lain only in London. A worthwhile change of scenery and highly recommended

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This book gives a sharp, brilliant eye to detail. The author gives us a take on one of Europe's most discusses places: The Red Light District. The detail in this novel is told via names of streets, cafes, and fully descriptive details of each place, taking us on the journey along David as he recounts his time spent there.

This memoir is truly groundbreaking and one of its time. David breaks through what we think we know of this place and shows us what it truly is. This famous tourist attraction is not just sex and neon-lit streets but rather one full of pain and heartbreak. David lifts the veil and shows us the lives of the women that work here and what they endure to survive. 

One questions how can such a place be so dark when its so brilliantly lit. When the reader travels with David in this book we are pulled from our comfort zones as we wish to pull through the novel and help the women in this district from such a horrible fate.

This memoir truly is evocative. This emotional story is one heck of a ride from start to finish. I normally don't read many memoirs but this one fascinated when I saw the cover and saw the description. The cover to me speaks of the memoir itself. This cover is beautiful and captivating from the outside but once you get inside the cover (to the actual story) it is heartbreaking and emotional, much like what David describes The Red Light District to truly be. Beauty on the outside but at closer look it is full of secrets, heartaches and so much more. 

5/5 stars from me.

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When I visited Amsterdam for a conference in Y2K, I was astounded at the number of people riding bicycles. I felt like I was taking my life in my hands just to walk a block. The bicycles have the right of way there and there were hundreds of them near the station. After making my way along to the tram, I was taken by the beauty of the city: the canals and those tall narrow houses with decorative roof lines. The most shocking to me was the red light district that our group of scientists stumbled into one evening trying to find our way home after having dined out. Seeing the rows of picture windows with prostitutes in each one, flirting with the men that came close to their window, trying to entice them to come in for a visit, was exactly as I had heard it was, but experiencing it for myself, was actually quite shocking. One can't see that without thinking, "Why would any women choose to do that for a living?"

That question is what drove the author of this book to spend months trying to get just one interview with one of these prostitutes. The book tells more about the difficulties of doing research for a book, than the prostitutes of Amsterdam, It should be apparent that no one would actually want to talk about the situations that placed them in this position, whether it's legal or not. The author managed to become acquainted with one of the prostitutes early in his quest, and he became friendly with her, but the interview he desperately wanted and she had promised, kept being postponed.

The author managed to draw me into his quest, let me experience Amsterdam again as it was when I was there, and kept me reading constantly. It couldn't put it down. I experienced all of his excitement and his disappointments. It took this author 18 years to write "Amsterdam Exposed", but it was an excellent read.

I received a free e-copy of #AmsterdamExposed from #NetGalley for an honest review.

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I liked the book of the authors journey to Amsterdam to spend a semester continuing his law studies, and also to get material for a book he had been wanting to write, since his first visit there as a young man. He wanted to write about the red light district in Amsterdam, and find out what it was like for the girls behind those windows, and how they got there.
I liked the story of his time there, the people he met and his daily life with friends and trying to research for his book.
He knew he could not get too involved with the women he tried to interview, but that kind of backfired, in that none of them would give him the time of day, as that was something not of interest to them, no money to be made, meaning no business. He finally had a breakthrough when he met Emma, and she seemed open to giving some information, after a lot of back and forth short encounters he finally got his chance at an interview.
Through this whole process he and Emma became friends and he even fancied himself caring for her, and she for him.
I guess in a way he got what he wanted with that interview on the last day he was in the Amsterdam, but I don't know if this was what he intended having only the opinion of one prostitute and not many to make comparisons on why they chose to enter and stay in this field. Emma's life story was a hard one and I think he probably did make a difference in her life.
It was a well written and interesting story.
I would like to thank NetGalley and De Wallen Press for the ARC of this book.

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Intriguing take on an inviting, intriguing city. Learned a lot and really want to travel there. I found it a compelling read.

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