Monthly Archives: July 2009

A Year Without “Made In China” – Review

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A Year Without Made in China by Sara Bongiorni
Age: Adult
Genre: Non-fiction, memoir
Location: Louisiana

Sara Bongiorni and her family decided to boycott products made in China for one year. They didn’t do this for any particular political or economic reason. Sara did not stand on a soapbox and rail against sweat shops and cheap manufactured goods being imported into the US economy. This boycott was simple a test to see if one average US family could live without purchasing anything from China.

The results are thoughtful, with some surprising and some expected conclusions. China is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and it has a strong grip on the global market. Sara’s book details the family struggles, going 1 year without the basic technological needs (a coffee maker, a blender blade) and even going to some extremes (wearing glacier sunglasses instead of basic sunglasses for everyday use). Her adventures are comical, particular the reactions of merchants, family and friends to this boycott who waver between support, and amusement as this family tries to navigate their way through the marketplace with strict shopping restrictions.

One thing that bugged me, is that it seemed as if the only store the family went to were Target. I don’t know much about Louisiana, esp pre-Hurricane Katrina, but I would imagine there would be more competition for basic goods that Target provides in a store other than the generic Wal-Mart which the Bongiorni family boycotts for the usual reasons (racist and sexist policies and Wal-Mart’s bullying tactics of its suppliers).

While reading this book, I would often pause and take inventory of my home and see how much of what I own does come from China. It sounds like a fun experiment, although I doubt I would be able to last an entire year. The family went through an entire year with only a few minor slip-ups, some blatant, some accidental, most were ambiguous (Does made in Denmark with Chinese components count as a China-product? What if there is no label?). I think I could last a month.¬† I applaud Bongiorni and her family’s accomplishments with their test, particularly the kids who put up with an entire year of fewer toys and reasonable, but not ideal, alternative to their wishlists. I think this is a book that most people could benefit from, but not everyone will want to reenact.

A Year Without “Made in China”
by Sara Bongiorni
John Wiley and Sons, 2007
ISBN 0470116135
235 pages

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Iran Awakening – Review

Shirin Ebadi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during and after the revolution of 1979 sends a clear message to the world about their ideas about Iranians, and Iranian women in particular. For me, it cleared up a lot of confusion as to how the Ayatollah even gained power and become such a dominant figure in the lives of Iranians.

Before the revolution Shirin was able to go to a university, she was able to wear skirts and shirts out in public, didn’t have to cover her hair, and was even able to get her degree in and become a judge. In her memoir, she tells¬† us about the disatisfaction of the Shah and of the Islamic revolution that swept the country and it’s people and her civil rights away virtually overnight. As a judge stripped of her powers, Shirin worked as lawyer, constantly trying to fight for human rights and protections against a biased and failing system. Almost all of her cases were of tragic death and mistreatment of women and children.

What I found most affecting about this book is the similarities between the protests leading up to the Shah’s overthrow and the protests going on in Iran today over the alleged rigged elections naming Ahmadinejad as President. Ebadi was more recently in the news after being arrested in Iran (for a second time). Her first arrest was eloquently detailed in her memoir and really highlighted the challenges that Iranians knowing face each day that they step outside their homes to protest against their government. Ebadi’s book is an excellent source of information for anyone wondering two things;

1. Why the US shouldn’t get involved with Iranian affairs.

The United States shouldn’t get involved this time around, because of previous adminstrations meddling. When Iran’s President Mossadegh decided to nationalize its gasoline, the United States got upset and staged the overnight coup that took him out of power and put the Shah in power instead. The US stepped in again later on to help put the Ayatollah in power when the Shah fled Iran. Add to that a third strike of arming Iraq with weaponry during the Iran/Iraq War and more recently being labled an Axis of Evil by the Bush Administration, I think Iran is fully due its right to be doubtful and resentful of US meddling in its political affairs.

2. What is life like for women in Iran after the revolution?

Life for women is dangerous, troublesome, restricting and overall limiting. Iranian women are by far the most intelligent in the Middle East because women are allowed to stay in school and even go to a University and get a degree. Although there are not enough jobs for women after graduation, and women take up a larger percentage of those enrolled in universities. A woman’s life in Iran is as you would expect, limited rights and constant fear of breaking yet another rule issued by the powers that be.

If you want a primer on the history of Iran and why these protests are of such importance to this nation and to the world, then this is a book you need to read. The history is accurate and well told, and Shirin’s experiences stay with the reader long after the book has been finished.

Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope
by Shirin Ebadi
Random House, 2006
ISBN 1400064708
232 pages

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