Tuesday, June 9, 2009
The Nonfiction Files
The Nonfiction Files is a weekly journal of my adventures reading my toppling piles of nonfiction books. I won't be posting reviews, but rather my thoughts about what I'm reading, while I'm reading it.
My current read is Where Am I Wearing by Kelsey Timmerman. If you need to catch up, you can read my first post here, and my second post here.
Synopsis from publisher:
Globalization makes it difficult to know where the things you buy come from. Journalist and travel writer Kelsey Timmerman wanted to know where his clothes came from and who made them, so he traveled from Honduras to Bangladesh to Cambodia to China and back. Along the way, he met the people who made his favorite clothes and learned as much about them as he did about globalization itself. Enlightening and controversial at once, this book puts a human face on globalization.
My final thoughts:
In the final section of the book, Timmerman encounters some serious resistance when he travels to China and attempts to visit a flip-flop factory. It's pretty clear the (American) company management doesn't want him anywhere near the plant. He does manage to meet up with two workers, a married couple, and spends as much time with them as he can. Initially, they are fairly positive about their circumstances, but as they feel more comfortable around Timmerman, the truth about their lives comes out. They work, on average, 80-100 hours per week, much of it unpaid. Their son lives in the country, several hours away from them, and they haven't seen him for 3 years because they can't take a day off work. It's heartbreaking, and by far the most difficult circumstance he has encountered.
Timmerman then returns home to America, where he visits a clothing manufacturing plant in Perry, New York. Here, the workers make a living wage, state that the company has saved the town, and Timmerman finally gets to meet the ACTUAL PERSON who made his shorts!
He makes a good point - when we think about who makes our clothes, we assume it is by a poor young person somewhere slaving away in a sweatshop. We don't hear the stories about companies who are actually trying to make things better - and they are out there.
"A producer of a radio program bluntly told me that her staff thought me naive because when they asked if the factories I visited were sweatshops, I said I didn't know. I told them that the factory conditions were okay and that the workers' lives, for the most part, seemed acceptable in the context of their countries. That's not what they wanted to hear...
When was the last time you heard a report from the media on a garment factory that was well run or a corporation that was working to improve the lives of the workers who makes their products? These don't make for good sound bytes, so we hear only about the violations and we are left thinking that all clothes are made in sweatshops."
Timmerman then gives a list of resources for consumers who want to start making more engaged choices about what they wear. I spent some time browsing those websites, and while some of the apparel is out of my price range, some of it is certainly viable for my current lifestyle.
I think this is a really good book. It's interesting and insightful, contains useful information to allow the reader to learn, but is written in such an engaging, conversational style that I can't imagine anyone not being drawn in. I definitely recommend this one - I think it will quite possibly change the way you look at what you wear, and where you shop, and maybe even give you a new perspective on things.
Source: Wiley publishing
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