Journalist Sara Bongiorni is one of those people who habitually checks the bottom of everything that she buys to the “made in” country of origin, primarily just for curiosity’s sake. One Christmas, after stepping on a sharp, plastic, “made in China” toy, Bongiorni reflects on just how many of the Christmas goodies in her house seemed to say “made in China” on the bottom. After tallying them up and becoming overwhelmed at China’s predominance in her house, Bongiorni decides that her New Year’s resolution will be that next year shall be, “A Year Without ‘Made in China'”.
“A Year Without ‘Made in China’” is essentially Bongiorni’s memoir of her year and her struggles keeping faithful to her China boycott. She made the decision to boycott not out of any deep-seeded hatred of China, or even because of safety or human rights concerns, but simply to see if it could be done. The verdict: yes, sort of, but with great difficulty. Difficulties included “the weakest link” (her husband); the fact that certain components of lamps are not made at ALL in the U.S., but only in China; and the all-consuming desire of a four year old boy for a light up plastic sword.
Although slightly less funny, this book was written in a similar style to A.J. Jacobs’ “The Know It All,” which chronicles his quest to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in a year. Both are books that are very much in the author’s head, their internal narrative as they attempt to do what others around them think impossible, or just plain stupid.
This was my book club book for this month. While I enjoyed it fairly well, perhaps because of my very enjoyable previous experience in this style with “The Know It All,” it seemed that the rest of my book club felt fairly ambivalent about it. They very much enjoyed the concept, but had a hard time being so totally in Bongiorni’s head, finding her a bit neurotic. She was a bit neurotic, I would agree, but I think that may be a result of trying to convince a four year old that he can wait an entire year for a light up sword. She did drive me slightly crazy with her children. She is far too susceptible to the guilt a four year old can dish out when he wants something. To answer your question, Sara, no, your child is NOT “suffering” because he wasn’t allowed to buy a purple plastic pumpkin. Be his mom, not his friend.
This book doesn’t explore the intricacies of globalization, but if you want to know how hard it would be to stop buying things from China, pick this up when it comes in paperback or get it from the library, and give it a read.
Buy this book on Amazon: A Year Without “Made in China”: One Family’s True Life Adventure in the Global Economy