Blue Gold

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2 Responses

  1. I found Blue Gold to be well written and I liked the fact that it shows the negative impact of the current approach to cell phone manufacturing and use on three continents.

    However, I worry that it does not show who is responsible for the abuses, so it could actually reinforce stereotypes about two of the three continents: Africa and Asia. For example, the character Sylvie (from the Congo) faces threats from a warlord who rules the refugee camp where Sylvie lives with her family in terror and dire poverty. The reader gets very little understanding of how Sylvie’s life situation has been shaped by the legacy of colonialism and multinationals today.

    It is also unfortunate that the mothers of Laiping (from Asia) and Sylvie (from Africa) are seen as trying to hold their daughters back — while Fiona’s (from North America) mother (and even her father) are supportive. It reinforces a message I see in a lot of books where the only person of color who is resisting is a child and doing so in spite of or against the will of their parents — as if the older generation is the problem and there is not a long history of resistance in any community and of real concern for and care for one’s children.

    While I agreed with much of Didier Gondola’s review, the conclusion could give the impression that there is no alternative to an exploitative economy. He recommends the book “to anyone who wants to understand how anonymous people in the Global South pay the price for our ability to enjoy technologies that we take for granted.” Are the anonymous people paying the price for “our ability to enjoy technologies” or for the ability for some people to make a gross profit from technology?

    Rating: 3
  2. Meena Khorana says:

    The structure of Blue Gold effectively juxtaposes the gripping stories of three girls who are approximately fifteen years old, on three different continents, and over the same time period. Each story emerges from the historical, political, economic or social context of the girl’s environment, and each girl faces a major predicament and decides how to resolve it. Yet, the three stories are inextricably linked because they are united through conflict coltan: Africa is the place where it is mined; Asia, where it is used in manufacturing electronic devices; and North America, where it is consumed. The three stories are interrelated in a subtle and reflexive manner, because each individual story adds nuance and understanding to the other two. Ultimately, when the stories come together (although the three protagonists do not meet), we learn through the experiences of these girls that conflict materials like coltan are part of a global problem (and not just because of violence and corruption in Africa) and that the girls suffer because of it.

    What I liked best about this book is that the three girls are not portrayed as victims; rather, each one takes charge of her own life, sometimes with the help of supportive friends or family, to confront and rectify her problem. In doing so, the girls take responsibility for trying to resolve a personal and global issue. However, I agree with Deborah Menkart’s review that the African and Asian mothers in the novel are not supportive of their daughters. For instance, the African mother is completely defeated by her circumstances: she is unable to overcome the traumatic experiences the family undergoes in the DRC (such as murder of her husband, rape, destruction of home, fleeing to Tanzania as refugees). Instead of being the adult and protecting and looking after her children, she has to be taken care of by them, especially by Sylvie, whom she blames repeatedly for every problem that the family encounters. Likewise, the Asian mother expects Laiping to support the family financially by working in the oppressive factory in China where the electronic goods are being manufactured. These mothers represent stereotypical images of women who are defeated by difficult circumstances and cannot fulfill their responsibilities as parents.

    This novel will encourage social action and global awareness.

    Meena Khorana, PhD
    Member, CABA Committee

    Rating: 3

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