In her novel, Blue Gold, Elizabeth Stewart explores the horrible hidden costs of technology. There are three stories intertwined, exploring the lives of teenage girls in Africa, Asia, and North America. The characters are fictional but the conflicts are real and this is not a light fluffy read. There are heavy topics and a good dollop of guilt for those of us who benefit from the cell phone industry.
Sylvie’s life in the refugee camp and the horrors that brought her there are shocking and sad. Her dedication to holding her family together, and her bravery makes her an admirable young woman. She aspires to help others when she could have wallowed about her mistreatment. Her struggle to understand how the Canadians who she saw as saviours may have instigated the conflict that caused her woes is eye opening. Violence, rape, and child soldiers are all part of her story.
Laiping’s unreasonable working conditions in China will make Canadian teens grateful for their less than ideal part-time jobs. I think her story will be easier to relate to than Sylvie’s because working long hours and not getting decent paid or given respect is something that Western kids may experience on a less drastic scale. Her lack of opportunities is disheartening.
Fiona takes for granted the products the other girls have suffered to produce. She is careless with privacy, and like many young girls, regrets sharing a half naked photo of herself when it is posted online for everyone to see.
Blue Gold would make for an interesting book club discussion. How can we as consumers ensure that we aren’t causing unnecessary harm in return for our luxuries? The author includes a few resources at the end for readers to educate themselves.
I went to see Mockingjay Part 1 this week and it made me sad to hear that so many teens seemed to think the movies are just about action and cute boys. The Hunger Games is about the same thing this book is: the exploitation of poor people for the cheap production of luxuries. In this case North America is the Capitol , and Congo and China are the exploited districts. I have always thought The Hunger Games was a fantastic way to broach this topic with youth but overhearing a lot of shallow comments during the film I feel like many are not reading between the lines. Hopefully Blue Gold is direct enough to reach them.