Fairtrade America’s Summer Reading List

2 June 2017   |   Kathleen McCoy, Events and Communications Assistant Manager

Our staff’s picks for the best reads on coffee, worker’s rights, ethical sourcing, and everything in between.
Summer is finally here!  Time for outdoor barbeques, camping trips, and days at the beach.  If you’re like me, maybe those longer days outside also lend themselves to more time for reading.  I’ve got a stack of grocery store checkout line novels to get me started, but I also rounded up some of my Fairtrade America friends for their recommendations on books related to fair trade, farmers, food, and everything in between.  Check out their reviews below, and be sure to visit our GoodReads page for even more great suggestions!

Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How it Transformed the World by Mark Pendergrast

Recommended by: Mary Linnell-Simmons, Acting Director of Marketing and External Relations. 

In this book, Pendergrast takes his readers from the discovery of coffee to the rise of Starbucks, while examining the various social, cultural, and political influences and the role that the Fair Trade movement has played in the story of this beloved commodity. Fun fact:  Fairtrade America’s Digital Content Manager, Kyle Freund, was a contributor to this book!

Just Give Money to the Poor: The Development Revolution from the Global South by Joseph Hanton, Arnando Barrientos, and Davide Hulme

Recommended by: Liz Guerrero, Resource and Development Manager

The main argument of this book is that “the poor” know what they need, therefore the best way to help them is to give them the financial support they need to make the best choices rather than giving aid with lots of restrictions and stipulations.  This idea fits well with the Fairtrade model, which provides farmers with the best price for their products, as well as a premium they can invest in whatever they deem necessary for their families and communities

The Travels of A T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade by Pietra Rivoli

Recommended by: Matt Hamilton, Compliance Manager

A favorite around our office, Rivoli uses the everyday item of a t-shirt to illustrate how even the simplest of items can have far reaching economic and political consequences.  Exploring the entire production chain of a shirt, from cotton harvesting to manufacturing, the landing on the shelf, this book is a great introduction to why certifications with strong social and environmental standards, like Fairtrade, are crucial to ensuring our products have a positive impact on the world.

Worker In The Cane: A Puerto Rican Life History by Sidney Mintz

Recommended by: Margot Conover, External Relations Manager

A true story, Worker in the Cane chronicles the life of Don Taso, a sugar cane worker in 1920s – -1950s Puerto Rico. Mintz captures the gritty and emotional human side of agricultural work – like Don Taso’s struggle to provide for his family and the tension between workers’ unions and company bosses. Margot comments: “Though Don Taso’s story takes place in Puerto Rico, I knew many sugar cane farmers and workers with similar life stories from when I worked with co-ops in Ecuador. These challenges and struggles still exist for agricultural workers worldwide.”

Portfolios of the Poor by Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford, and Orlanda Ruthven

Recommended by: Liz Guererro, Resource and Development Manager

What better way to understand the economic choices of those living in poverty than to chronicle how they spend their money?  The authors of Portfolios of the Poor do just that, conducting year-long interviews with impoverished villagers and slum dwellers in Bangladesh, India, and South Africa –records that track penny-by-penny how specific households manage their money.  The sophistication of the informal financial institutions used by those profiled, such as savings clubs and microfinance groups, is heartening and enlightening.

Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel

Recommended by: Kyle Freund, Digital Content Manager

Food policy is often built around access to affordable food. But the ‘affordable’ in that equation usually gets translated to ‘cheap and nutrient-deficient’ – something that serves neither consumers nor farmers. Patel breaks down the problems with food around the world and how power in supply chains has been consolidated among traders. It’s not all doom and gloom though as he finds hope in social movements around the world working to spread democracy and build inclusive food systems.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Recommended by: Margot Conover, External Relations Manager

“One of my favorite books of all time! Besides being a gorgeous, funny, painful, dreamlike meander through the life and times of Macondo, Colombia and the Buendía family, this book illustrates the dark history of agricultural corporations in Latin America. Garcia Marquez based the Banana Company that invades Macondo on United Fruit (later Chiquita). 

A Cafecito Story: El Cuento del Cafecito By: Julia Alvarez

Recommended by: Kyle Freund, Digital Content Manager

“A roaster friend passed this to me when I was working at Coffee Kids. It’s a simple, inspiring read about recreating the world in a more sustainable way. It’s about producing coffee in harmony with the land. And points to how good coffee can be.”

Empire of Cotton: A Global History by Sven Beckertt

Recommended by: Margot Conover, External Relations Manager

Beckertt traces cotton’s entry into the global marketplace from India during the Age of Exploration, and the pivotal role it played in the rise of capitalism as the dominant global economic system. From the beginning – and still today – the industry depends on built-in inequality and poverty for cotton and textile workers all along the supply chain. Recommended for anyone interested in ethical fashion or who has felt challenged by the complexity of curating an ethical closet.

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