Where Am I Wearing?: A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People That Make Our Clothes by Kelsey Timmerman is scheduled for release November 24, 2008, but it looks like it’s available now (and has been for more than a week).
This nonfiction book introducing the people who make our clothes seemed to be one of those that met me at the intersections of my life.
From the cover:
Ninety-seven percent of our clothes are made overseas. Yet globalization makes it difficult to know much about the origin of the products we buy — beyond the standard “Made in” label. So journalist and blogger Kelsey Timmerman decided to visit each of the countries and factories where his five favorite items of clothing were made and meet the workers. He knew the basics of globalized labor — the forces, processes, economics, and politics at work. But what was lost among all those facts and numbers was an understanding of the lives, personalities, hopes, and dreams of the people who made his clothes.
In Bangladesh, he went undercover as an underwear buyer, witnessed the child labor industry in action, and spent the day with a single mother who was forced to send her eldest son to Saudi Arabia to help support her family. In Cambodia, he learned the difference between those who wear Levi’s and those who make them. In China, he saw the costs of globalization and the dark side of the Chinese economic miracle.
Bouncing between two very different worlds — that of impoverished garment workers and his own Western lifestyle — Timmerman puts a personal face on the controversial issues of globalization and outsourcing. Whether bowling with workers in Cambodia or riding a roller coaster with laborers in Bangladesh, he bridges the gap between impersonal economic forces and the people most directly affected by them. For anyone who wants to truly understand the real issues and the human costs of globalization, Where Am I Wearing? is an indispensable and unforgettable journey.
This book is about clothes, about culture. About people. About shopping. Conscience. Poverty.
As I was saying, at the intersection of many segments of my life. I’ll just mention a couple.
• In the early pages, it’s briefly mentioned that much of this book doesn’t apply to people who make their own clothing (or buy handmade), or buy their clothes used. I’m all about handmade (although I do buy clothes new).
• It’s very interesting to think about oneself as primarily a consumer. It’s not fun, though (for me, anyway).
As for the writing, I found it forgettable. It was fine — near brilliant in a few spots even — but overall not terribly captivating. I have one question that remains unanswered: What happens to garment factory workers when that factory closes? It may seem inconsequential, but other aspects of what happens are covered, and how fleeting the factories can be is highlighted without answering this natural extension.
I really liked this book. It was a good book, and a book that needed to be written. The guide, at the end, about what one can do to live out her convictions in these matters is good, too. Challenging, even.
Timmerman is a freelance journalist. He lives in Muncie, Indiana.