Egyptian Made: Women, Work, and the Promise of Liberation

Journalist Leslie T. Chang (Factory Girls) delves into the complexities of being a woman in Egypt's garment industry in her second nonfiction book, Egyptian Made. Through detailed research, interviews, and analysis of the cultural forces shaping Egyptian life, Chang analyzes why Egypt struggles to gain a foothold in the global garment industry--and why it's doubly difficult for women to even work outside of the home.

Chang describes the religious and social dynamics that keep many Egyptian women at home, particularly the "specific idea about male dignity" and various Quranic verses that place men above women. She gives a helpful overview of how Egypt's governance (differing drastically under different presidents) has affected various industries and products. But Chang's true strength is her keen, compassionate portraits of female workers and their families. She spends time with entrepreneurs, floor managers, and line workers, learning the social dynamics of their workplaces and their motivations for working (or quitting). Chang often contrasts her findings in Egypt with her experiences in China while researching Factory Girls. The young women she met in Beijing or Dongguan believed they could change their lives through hard work and ingenuity--and often did. The women Chang met in Egypt, even the most brilliant ones, often succeeded only until they hit the brick wall of family disapproval or religious taboos.

Vivid and fascinating, Chang's book is a thoughtful (if somewhat disheartening) portrait of a group of workers whose gender often renders them invisible, but whose skills and talents deserve much more reward than their country allows. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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