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Summer reading

Keeping it light for the summer?  I recently tore my way through these three, which loosely qualify as 'environmental' but definitely qualify as fun.

A Year Without "MADE IN CHINA," Sara Bongiorni

Bongiorni's book is what it says it is: a chronicle of her family's year boycotting goods from China.  She doesn't have any major revelations, just neurotic obsessing about China and funny anecdotes about her two kids and husband.  It's a lot like Not Buying It, arranged by the months of the year but lacking Judith Levine's subtle pathos and pointed philosophic moments.  I was astonished by the amounts of crap (Chinese or not) she and her husband declared they absolutely had to have, especially for their kids.  Plastic Halloween decorations?  Squirt guns?  Either her freelance writing job and her husband's academic position are unlike any other in America, or they're in a mountain of plastic-induced debt - every time they go to Target, they walk away with a huge pile, seemingly everything in the store that's not from China.  Despite her un-selfawareness about this fact and others, Bongiorni is funny and very readable - I couldn't put it down!

The Gospel According to Larry, Janet Tashjian

Someone posted about this one on Colin's blog, and I decided to check it out, however embarrassed I might be to carry around a YA novel.  It's a great story, about a senior in high school who isn't into buying and brands and celebrities.  He's got funny friends and funny habits, and the structure of the tale is quite clever.  I'd recommend it for young teens or an adult who wants some low-impact reading. 

After looking up the author's name again, I found a blog and Facebook page dedicated to Larry - a very canny marketing strategy for this particular book.  It appears as if a couple of sequels have come out since.

The Monkey-Wrench Gang, Edward Abbey

Sex, drugs, destruction...and environmentalism?  Yep.  Long before we got all smug on these here eco-blogs, Edward Abbey was out in the desert causing all kinds of mayhem, in the name of conservation/preservation and general antiestablistmentarianism.   This work of fiction chronicles the adventures and misadventures of four eco-terrorists in the Southwest in the 70s.  His charming caricatures get caught up in increasingly more dangerous scrapes and take you, the reader, on a Hunter S. Thompson-style ride.  

Posted on Sunday, July 27, 2008 at 10:21PM by Registered CommenterMegan Metcalf | Comments4 Comments

Reader Comments (4)

I admit, I get a little freaked out about the "Made in China" boycotting. What if something is made in China under fair labor conditions? Shouldn't we be supporting that? Shouldn't we be supporting Chinese people being pulled out of poverty?

What's your take on it?

July 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterarduous

Yeah, Bongiorni touches on this but doesn't really get into it, one of the major shortcomings of the book. A lot of people argue that even /without/ fair labor conditions Chinese workers are a lot better off than when they were living in the countryside. It's not just cheap labor, though: the dumping of chemicals and wastes and other destructive (but cheap) environmental practices are what's keeping prices low. It was this kind of round-and-round that made me decide to stop buying new things at all during Fix.

Obviously I support the health, happiness, and education of Chinese people - I've been thinking a lot about your comment (somewhere?) that once more and more "third world" people obtain an education and improve their basic needs, they will no longer be willing to work for so little. If there was some kind of vetting process for producers of Chinese goods - every single part of them - I'd be inclined to support the companies that are definitely adhering to internationally recognized labor and environmental practices. But of course then the stuff wouldn't be so cheap. In the meantime, when I have to buy a Chinese product (I don't even look but maybe now I will), I'll tell myself that there's a chance I'm helping a Chinese person get out of poverty.

July 28, 2008 | Registered CommenterMegan Metcalf

Loved Monkey Wrench Gang!

We did our own little Made in China boycott over the holidays last year. Similar to your Fix, it gives you great insight into the things you truly need and brings out creativity that's been buried within.

Best of luck!

July 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKellie

Thanks, Kellie! OMG, the compost outfit - your Fletch is ADORABLE!

July 28, 2008 | Registered CommenterMegan Metcalf

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