• John Martin

A Harvest of Thorns - Book Review


A Harvest of Thorns by Corban Addison (Published by Quercus in 2017) is a novel set primarily in the world of US garment retailing. A factory in Bangladesh burns down with disastrous consequences for the workers inside and momentous impact for the management of the large retailer of garments produced in the factory.

The story is about how this chain of 2,500 stores in the US source their products and how workers on the other side of the world are treated. Although a fictional story it is set against the stark reality of the retail garment supply chain. A good read.

Included at the end of the book is a summary of the action we can take to address the issues of the garment supply chain. There are also some serious study questions, not normally found between the covers of a novel.

I am grateful to Liz Vickery of Laidley UC for drawing my attention to this book.

Here is a sample from the book:

Addressing a group of exploited workers, one of those investigating the workers’ conditions says:

‘Right now back in America its nighttime. All 2,543 Presto stores are closed. When they open in the morning, people are going to show up and buy all sorts of things not knowing where they came from or who made them. They’re not going to think about that because they – and all of us – have been conditioned not to think about it. That’s part of the great deception in the global economy. Things just appear on our shelves, pretty things, desirable things, things we need and want. They’re right there in front of us, made and assembled, all shiny and new. We give a company like Presto our dollars, and we walk away with them, never considering that they might be the fruit of abuse and exploitation. Workers like you are invisible to people in the United States, and Presto and their competitors are happy to keep it that way. They don’t want their customers to see you because their customers aren’t all that different from you. They’re just people, fathers and mothers, aunts and uncles, grandfathers and grandmothers. They would never allow their kids to work in a place like Millennium, Rightway or Sun Star. The reason they buy the clothes made in those factories is because they don’t see the truth. Your pain and toil and tears have been erased from the picture. All that’s left is the transaction, which makes Presto money, and keeps the engine of the economy humming, and gives politicians their power and allows Presto’s CEO to take home twelve million dollars a year.’ (p 302)

The book is available at many libraries, but if you wanted to buy a copy, one place to do so is at www.booktopia.com.au (there are probably other sources too).


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