Oct 11, 2011

A Year Without Made in China

Book: A Year Without "Made in China": One Family's True Life Adventure in the Global Economy by Sara Bongiorni

My rating: 4 stars

Brief description from inside jacket: On January 1, 2005, Sara Bongiorni's family embarked on a yearlong boycott of Chinese products. They wanted to see for themselves what it would take, in will power and creativity, to live without the world's fastest growing economy - and whether it could be done at all.

I mentioned this book last week, but it was so good I wanted to do a full review of it. I found it in a used bookstore and thought it sounded interesting.

It was not interesting. It was so much more.
The premise seemed catchy enough, and if anything I figured it would be like Nickel and Dimed - good, but at times a little pretentious. I am happy to report it was not like that at all.

The author was upfront and honest about her reasons for the boycott. It had nothing to do with the people of China, and she didn't expect anyone outside her immediate family to abide by it (they had a rule about gifts not counting toward the boycott so they didn't impose it on anyone else), and while she gets excited about finding Danish legos, or Swedish shoes, she also struggles with guilt for not being able to give her son the toy he wants so badly.

She strikes a great balance of serious and funny, including referring to her husband as the Weakest Link (yes, with capitalization), and her often expressed hatred of Wal-Mart.

"One day, Wal-Mart's dark angling for 'Low Prices' will catch up with it and the company will implode, Enron-style. It my take 40 years, but, in the end, I'll have the last laugh. It will be death by a thousand cuts. Just wait and see." (Pg 144)

She really brings you into her world during the boycott - her writing is friendly, almost conversational, and by the end of the first chapter I was already laughing at her jokes and thinking of what great friends we'd be. I've talked about how I demand a lot as a reader, and this author definitely drew me in - at first because I didn't know if the boycott would last a whole year, and later as I cheered the family on. I grinned when she found a lamp made in the USA, and found myself frustrated along with her when she realized some of the parts had been individually made in China.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, but the biggest thing I walked away with was the balance the family struck, and the awareness it brought them. I'll leave you with two quotes (appropriately enough from the introduction, and the afterword).

"My hope is that readers will use my family's experience to better understand how China is quietly changing their own lives and how the choices we all make as consumers shape China's place in the world, and our own. I had always seen myself as a mere speck in the global economy. I still do. But the boycott made me see what I had missed before. I might be a mere speck in the larger world, but I can still make choices, and China is both limiting and expanding my options. I hope our story prompts readers to look closely at the choices they have available to them." (pg 3)

"In pushing China out of our lives, I got an eye-popping view of how far China had pushed in." (pg 2)...."At the same time, the boycott gave us a discipline that we had lacked as consumers." (pg 225)

Have you read this book? Do you think you could ever embark on something like this? And if so, could you do it for a whole year? As a consumer how aware do you think you are about where things are made? (Honestly, before I read this book I didn't even think to check!)

(Photo: A Book Lover's Diary)


tessica said...

So, I really want to read this book now!

Kate Sparkles said...

Wow.. I was drawn in the moment I saw the title. I'm definitely interested in reading it.
Honestly, I don't think I could do it which kind of saddens me. I just checked the labels on my pyjamas, dressing gown and knickers and you can guess where they all came from.. I wouldn't mind doing it for a smaller period of time though, like a month, just to see how hard it is!

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

im too lazy.

Drew said...

That sounds really interesting! After the multiple problems with items manufactured in China recently I became more aware of where items I was buying were made. However, cutting out China is hard and I can't imagine getting my husband on board with something like that!

A said...

Our landlords are BIG into buying only American made and it's been really interesting to watch/hear about secondhand. It makes me want to read this book!

Aileen said...

Sounds like an interesting read! I can see the appeal of trying to avoid China-made items. It sounds like it'd be very overwhemling to find things that are 100% not made in China.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I am not very aware of where the things I buy are made... It would be so tough to not buy anything made in China. Unfortunately I feel like we have become these arrogant Americans who assume we will always have the most successful economy... and while we have rested on our laurels, the Chinese had snuck up behind us....

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