Kellie's Reviews > Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China

Factory Girls by Leslie T. Chang
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's review
Dec 07, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: nook, nonfiction
Read in March, 2012

It is a fascinating window on understanding the human connection to the computer I'm using to type, the shoes I use to exercise, the phone I use, the tv I watch, and anything else that I have that bears the distinction of being Made in China. I feel to honor the work and lives of these invisible and heretofore anonymous workers, because I have to accept that stuff I want to use every day comes through their hands and helps create the unique and challenging lives they have chosen to lead. I have been fascinated in the reading of this book to be able to think of the individuals to whom I'm connected, if only by the thinnest of threads, by global trade.

Yarn comes to my knitting hands from all over the world as well. I have in my possession right now yarn from the US, England, Scotland, Peru, Uruguay, Canada, Turkey, China, Japan, Italy, Ireland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Australia, and New Zealand. I found all those examples in about a 20-minute perusal of my stash. I'm sure there are more places represented. It comes through all those hands in all those countries and enriches my life in ways that the individuals at the other end of the production line may not even be able to imagine or understand. It may be just a commodity to them, depending on the volume being produced.

It is appealing to think of the world as small and to work toward a new kind of localization of products and services. In the end, it will not entirely work. Don't get me wrong, I love supporting local businesses and all that, but there is no doubt that even local businesses are dependent on the global economy in major ways (my local organic farm uses computers, smartphones, cars, trucks, cameras, shoes and clothing). Just as most of the running shoes in the world are made in just a few factories, then shipped to many different brand distributors, that local or boutique dyer you love may be buying the base yarn from one of several large-scale suppliers, who in turn get their yarns from many different sources around the world, and some of it might come down the pipeline of global trade, perhaps from large and fully industrial factories.

Yarn has such a warm, fuzzy connotation in our minds that we may not like to think of our beloved medium coming from a mill run by workers in hairnets monitoring vast machines. The fact is since the advent of the industrial revolution, much of it does come from such a beginning. Even in our immediate, intimate, and seemingly small world of knitting, there is always going to be a connection to the wider manufacturing world. I don't think this is a bad thing. It is the world where we live and I'd rather think about my computer or my shoes or my yarn being made by a person, perhaps a Factory Girl a world away in China.

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