Sep

10

 I bought A Year Without 'Made In China' because it received very nice comments from disparate sources. The author, tired of seeing "Made in China" on so much merchandise, especially on the Christmas gifts of 2005, decided to see what it would be like to go on a full year boycott of anything made in that country.

It's a painful revelation especially if you have become accustomed to sunglasses, almost any kind of footwear (but flip-flops and tennis shoes especially), children's toys, staples, ink cartridges, almost any small (or not so small) electrical appliance, and costume jewelry.

Bongiorni leads us through a variety of events that demand replacement purchases and holidays which carry with them the expectation of gifting. If you, like she, decide to opt against Chinese merchandise, your shopping will be far more difficult or far more expensive — or both. In addition to the book's success in illustrating this, it is also a not-so-subtle screed aimed at Wal-Mart. In fact, Bongiorni admits she doesn't like the chain and uses it frequently as a punching bag.

Her husband (the "Weak Link") and two children are cajoled into joining her on this quest. Their initial support is less than whole hearted but in traditional American fashion, acquiesce to Mom. Obviously, they encounter many problems - otherwise this wouldn't have been a book, but a long essay - and, in fact, that is what it should have been. After a very short while the problems become predictable as do the various participants' reactions to them. What begins as an interesting study turns into a forecastable whine … much of it with merit.

If there's a hero in the book it's her husband. Despite an eye problem he gets along for several months without sun glasses; his coffee is prepared by boiling water in a pot since a non-Chinese peculator is not to be found; and he learns to sew so that, using materials from a multitude of countries, he can make sleeping bags for his children.

Don't be confused (as her five-year-old son is) into believing that she dislikes the Chinese, it is quite the contrary, as she protests over and over again. Some twists occur at the conclusion, including the reaction of the Chinese press. It's an interesting story which reveals just how much we have become dependent on China for many of our (affordable) daily necessities. What is even more frightening, and which Bongiorni touches on briefly, is that if her boycott had included any product that had even one Chinese component…the boycott wouldn't have lasted anywhere near a year. In that case, ubiquitous takes on a whole new meaning.


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  1. Anonymous on September 12, 2007 2:59 pm

    I read the book and found it entertaining and humorous enough. However, the reason for boycott — just to see if it can be done — is too weak to support a book. It is purely descriptive and not grounded in anything meaningful. It would have been better as a magazine article.

    Also, I found it disingenuous that, in the eighth or ninth month of the boycott, the author takes her kids to the toy department of Target. By then, if not on Day One, she would know that there’s not much that will be acceptable. It felt as if she was manufacturing conflict to write about.

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