DYING FOR AN IPHONE

APPLE, FOXCONN, AND THE LIVES OF CHINA'S WORKERS

A valuable contribution to an overdue discussion about technology and privilege.

A damning indictment of Apple’s labor and supply practices.

Chan, Selden, and Pun persuasively argue that the relationship between Apple and shadowy Chinese manufacturing giant Foxconn epitomizes the brutality of globalized late-stage capitalism. “In summer 2010,” write the authors, “we collaborated with researchers from China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong to conduct undercover research at Foxconn’s major manufacturing sites....Our effort to engage the corporations in discussion of labor responsibility produced only corporate rationalizations and platitudes.” The authors investigate Foxconn’s aggressive rise, propelled by mysterious CEO Terry Gou, seemingly determined to create a Maoist workers’ cult complete with slogans and surveillance. Still, “while Foxconn carved out a niche as the exclusive final assembler of the iPhone, the lion’s share of the profits was captured by Apple.” The authors merge deep dives into data with chilling testimonials from workers, including some who attempted suicide. “All of us log long hours of overtime with only two rest days in the entire month,” said one worker regarding the demands for iPad production. Due to such pressures, “fire hazards and metallic dust explosions had put workers’ lives at severe risk, with Apple complicit along with its supplier network.” Although their focus is the corrosive effect of Foxconn on China’s labor market, the authors address subtopics including exploitative internship programs, environmental issues, and workers’ efforts to organize for better treatment, opposed by the company and the government. This contrasts uncomfortably with Apple’s hip, progressive public image. “We can speak of a veritable cult of Apple,” write the authors, “with tens of thousands of consumers tracking each corporate unveiling of a new design.” Although their tone is dry, they harness disturbing and varied evidence, including anecdotes, corporate communications, and first-person accounts, creating a compelling exposé of what lies behind one of the most recognizable icons of consumerism.

A valuable contribution to an overdue discussion about technology and privilege. (b/w photos)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64259-124-8

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Haymarket Books

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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