Wednesday, May 20, 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.

It's time to start a new book, and right now I'm reading Where Am I Wearing by Kelsey Timmerman.

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 thoughts so far:

Ever since I watched the documentary China Blue, I haven't been able to stop thinking about who makes my clothes. (As an aside, it's a heartbreaking documentary, but don't watch it if you want to keep shopping at Wal-Mart.) So the idea of someone traveling around the world to find out where his clothes were made, and who makes them, was very intriguing.

Now, this doesn't seem to be hard-hitting investigative journalism - on his first trip, to Honduras, where his T-shirt was made, he barely managed to speak to one young man from the factory before giving up. The factory guards wouldn't let him in, so he just left. I'm interested to see if he becomes more persistent, or if the whole book will be half-hearted attempts, more for the sake of saying he went than actually making and discoveries.

I'm not too far along in the book, but so far I am enjoying the author's conversational tone, and really rooting for him to actually find someone to talk to in another country. It was interesting to read about his discussions with other people about the trip before he went - most people thought he was a little strange to take the trip. Why would anyone want to go on a vacation to a sweatshop?

"I understood that the people who made my clothes were probably not living a life of luxury, but I didn't automatically assume they worked in a sweatshop. I found this connection rather disturbing. The majority of the people I talked to, and even members of a nationally syndicated program that reports on the world's poor, assumed all of my clothes were made in sweatshops. It seemed to be a given - the people who make our clothes are paid and treated badly. Since few of us make our own clothes or buy secondhand, it appears we really don't give a darn because there is nothing we can do about it. Besides, we saved a few bucks."

As I said before, this is an issue I've struggled with ever since watching a documentary about clothing workers in China. I don't have an answer - maybe I'm reading this book to see if the author eventually comes up with one. I don't know if there is a solution, but I'm interested to see where this journey takes him.

(All quotes are from an uncorrected proof - they may change slightly in the final copy.)


Meghan said...

I've read this one! You'll be glad to know that he has more success later on, although it does stay more conversational as opposed to expose the whole way through. I really liked it. I'll be interested to see what you're thinking when you get further along. =)

Zibilee said...

You know, I have never really thought about the sweat shop aspect of some of the products I buy. I think reading this book would be a really enlightening experience. I, too, am interested on what you opinions will be as you get further into this book.

Anonymous said...

This has become my most favorite feature on you blog Elizabeth. I really like the way you summarise a part of the book. I've seen this book around and found it very interesting. I hope you enjoy the rest of the book.

Sadako said...

I've never thought about it either, but this really makes me wnat to read Where am I Wearing, as well as to watch China Blue.