Stefani's Reviews > The Glass Collector

The Glass Collector by Anna Perera
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Jun 05, 12

bookshelves: depressing, young-adult

Every time I read a book about some previously unknown atrocity occurring in a developing country, part of my heart shrivels up and blackens a bit more than it already is, causing me to think that the earth is, in fact, on a ruinous path of destruction as predicted by our friends, the Mayans. I'm not sure why I do this to myself.

And, on that happy note, comes the topic of this book, about a class of people, Coptic Christians living in Cairo called Zabaleen (Arabic for garbage collectors). They pick through garbage for a living, separating recyclables and selling it for profit, but without the benefit of gloves or sanitary facilities. As you can imagine, this type of work is extremely hazardous and unsanitary, particularly for the "medical wasters," people who grab bags of used syringes, tubing and bandages and dig through it with their bare hands to find recyclable items. Just the thought of this reduces me to shivers and gags.

Anyway, the book follows a boy who lives in a shantytown full of garbage; his specialty is collecting glass, as the title suggests. He resides with his stepfamily who treat him like Cinderella. Although the plot wasn't incredibly cohesive, I think the purpose of the novel was really to illustrate to adolescents residing in the Western World that their lives are really privileged, comparatively speaking. So, next time you complain about homework, annoying parents or pesky siblings, remember...you could be digging through garbage for a living! Which I definitely think is an important lesson for kids to grasp, even if they roll their eyes and pretend not to care.
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