Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Where Am I Wearing? - Kelsey Timmerman

I received an advance copy of this soon to be published book courtesy of Kim at John Wiley & Sons.

Kelsey Timmerman is a travel writer who blogs at Where Am I Wearing? One day he took notice of the labels inside his clothes and a quest began. As the author himself says:
I was made in America. My “Jingle These” Christmas boxers were MADE IN BANGLADESH. I had an all-American childhood in rural Ohio. My all-American blue jeans were MADE IN CAMBODIA. I wore flip-flops every day for a year when I worked as a SCUBA diving instructor in Key West. They were MADE IN CHINA. One day while staring at a pile of clothes on the floor, I noticed the tag of my favorite T-shirt: MADE IN HONDURAS. I read the tag. My mind wandered.
I liked the fact that Timmerman's first trip to Honduras to meet some garment factory workers turns out to be not such a success. He found it difficult to frame questions to workers, consequently feelt embarassed and returned home without having really achieved anything. I found this honesty refreshing and in stark contrast to the bolshy attitude of many crusaders.

However, the question remained in Timmerman's mind, and he decided to try again. He travels to Bangladesh where he gains access to a garment factory under the "guise" of an American website owner on the quest for cheaper merchandising. To our hilarity, the aforementioned Jingle These boxers are examined minutely by the garment factory manufacturers in order to determine their providence. He shares a day with Arifa, a determined and able worker in one of the Bangladeshi factories.

Timmerman continues his on his journey to Cambodia where he befriends a group of young female garment factory workers who make jeans andtakes them bowling and for pizaza, much to their bemusement. He then proceeds to China where he meets a young couple who live far apart from their son and family in order to work at the factory where the author's flip flops were made.

In all instances, Timmerman describes the surrounding economic situation of the country and the context/importance of the garment industry within that country. He reviews the western attitude to sweatshops and child labour. Overall, the reader is left with the conclusion that the author didn't visit anywhere that would disgust us, but rather visited places where life is tough and the only option open to many people is to work long, hard hours. It's not the child labour itself that is awful, but the fact that it is a necessity for many children in the developing world to work.

Despite Timmerman's journey, there is a distinct sensation of dis-involvement (is that a word?) or distance in the book. The author doesn't really make any moral judgements, but rather presents the facts for us to read and review. The pace of the first half of the book is somewhat lacklustre but it does gain some momentum and attraction in the second half as the author himself appears to warm to his quest.

The book is written very much in the style of a blogger, as opposed to a serious journalist, and is a suitable read for someone wishing to learn more about the world of cheap, mass-produced clothing. Timmerman doesn't overwhelm us with statistics and obscure legalities and economics, but presents it as he saw it. The decision is up to you.

1 comment

  1. Hey, this is Kelsey.

    Thanks for the review. You really picked up on a lot of the things that I worked hard to achieve in the writing of Where Am I Wearing? First, the fact I was growing into the quest as I went. And second, I tried to leave a lot of the soul searching to the reader. I tried very hard to avoid being preachy.

    Great review! I really appreciate it.


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