Wednesday, June 11, 2008

New book, blog

Read any books written by your neighbors?

I just finished "A Year Without 'Made in China': One Family's True Life Adventure in the Global Economy" by Sara Bongiorni, a freelance journalist who also lives in Baton Rouge. The book was a gift from another neighbor, who I believe bought it from the author in a local signing.

Bongiorni's book details her personal quest, shared by default by her husband and their two small children, to eschew any purchase stamped "Made In China." For a year. Ouch!

It isn't long before the worm turns on what seems like an attractive and not-impossible idea. Within a month, it's clear to all that virtually every readily-purchased and affordable consumer good is manufactured in the People's Republic. Eleven long months to go...

Along the way we learn about the many unexpected dilemmas and near-emergencies that must arise from such a project. The result is an ongoing negotiation of amendments to the embargo that make clear just how closely our lives have melded with the ways and means of the next world superpower.

It's a good read, funny and fast. Prepare to be hammered with a reminder how bourgeoisie you've become.

Considering the size of our town and the percentage of residents with some association to LSU (Bongioni's husband teaches), it's not surprising that I recognize some of the local personalities and places, however veiled by the author. One named outright in the acknowledgements is my friend, also a freelance writer and former LSU staffer, Renee Bacher.

Renee and her family are traipsing across Europe just now, learning the value of the US dollar. She just sent me the link to her blog, here, and I recommend it to you. A section from today's update:

We spend three nights in Helsinki, jammed into the chestnut sized room with our three children. On the first night, I think that Benny is going to blow. The fight is with Hannah, over a coveted pillow that belongs to Laura (of course, inflatable ones I have brought along for each of us are inadequate replacements during this fight. It is in the next fight, my fight with Hannah, that we fight over these).

My main concern is that the way-too-kind Finnish cousin and her boyfriend (who I can’t believe is not leaving her over us) will hear the ruckus, from their pea sized room next door. Okay, that’s not exactly true. My main concern is that they will see that Ed and I are complete failures as parents.

But worse still is my concern that my inconsiderate, bickering children will confirm the stereotype that all American children are spoiled brats. Here Laura and Oscar have graciously surrendered 9/10 of their apartment to us along with 100% of their privacy, but neither Hannah nor Ben is willing to surrender one stinking pillow for the common good.

2 comments:

Russ London said...

Matt

I would love to do "without China" but must confess to a serious addiction to Harbour Freight tools.

Typical american lusting for cheap tools that will rarely be used,

I have to work on this,

Russ

Matt Mullenix said...

Hi Russ,

I think doing "without China" would bea lot easier "without kids." Something about the cheap shiny plastic stuff that drives kids mad with greed. They are like crows.

Give me a call. We have some grilling to do.