Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Where Am I Wearing?--Kelsey Timmerman (Book Review)

Do you check the labels of your clothes to see where they're made? Kelsey Timmerman does. But what does Made in China or Made in Honduras really tell you? Is buying "American" always better?

Timmerman set out to connect with the people who could have made his t-shirt (Honduras), his jeans (Cambodia), his flip flops (China), and even his underwear (Bangladesh). Where Am I Wearing?, published by Wiley, is the story of his travels as he sought to answer the title question. Along the way he asks more difficult questions: Are the current Child Labor laws truly helping children have better lives? Does it help low-paid workers if we boycott their country's products?

Taste in books, both fiction and nonfiction, is so subjective, that there are few that I endorse with, "Everyone should read this." This is one of them. Not to say that the prose is seamless ("How many times does he have to tell us he was a SCUBA instructor in Key West?!" my husband complained after reading the first few chapters) or that it's the best nonfiction book I've read (though it is an engaging read). But because this book will change you.

Maybe you're a card-carrying member of The Fair Labor Association or maybe you've never checked a label in your life. Either way, the faces and stories of the real people behind the closed doors of overseas garment factories will likely move you. Timmerman offers a new perspective on issues you may or may not have considered when you picked up those bargain jeans on sale or splurged on those designer jeans.

The pants I'm wearing today were made in Sri Lanka. My undies were made in Costa Rica. My shirt has the "made-in" tag cut out but it's Jordache so it was likely made in Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Bangladesh, or Madagascar. My shoes were made in China.

Why should I care? Read the book and find out.

Further reading:
How Where Am I Wearing impacted our holiday shopping
Where Am I Wearing reviewed by Wordlily


  1. I do try to be an informed consumer, so I can't wait to read this.

  2. Sounds very similar to Barbara Eirenreich's books. (I have no idea if I spelled her name correctly, but it's close enough.) I'll have to check it out.

  3. Are there any of her books that you particularly recommend, Jessi? I'd like to check her out. I remember being intrigued by Nickled and Dimed when it came out, but I didn't get around to reading it. I notice she has a book called Global Woman as well as many more I didn't know about. Looking at the contents, I get the impression that Ehrenreich focuses on Americans and immigrants to America, while Timmerman focuses on people living in other parts of the world. Is that true?

  4. I read and loved Nickel and Dimed, and I have a copy of Bait and Switch in my TBR pile. She wrote another book about the middle class, but I can't remember the title. I would definitely check out Nickel and Dimed, though. And you're right, she does focus on Americans. It's just the style that reminded me of Timmerman's book. Like a post-Thompson "Gonzo journalism" or something. :)

  5. Kelsey Timmerman is guest blogging on mental_floss. He's done two posts so far, I think, and they're both really interesting.

  6. Great, thanks for letting me know, Jessi!

  7. I just found this post. Thanks for the great review!

  8. Hi, Kelsey, I just lent Where Am I Wearing to my sister when she came to visit, so I've been talking about you--must be why you discovered the review, your ears were burning.

    I'm reading Rich Like Them, which reminds me of Where Am I Wearing in a way--it's got that "guy has a question and sets off on multiple journeys to answer it" flavor to it. :-)

  9. I reviewed this one too!