THE MONDAY BOOK: Global Girlfriends by Stacey Edgar

The first time I got this book was from my editor, Nichole Argyres, as a present. While visiting in 2012, she saw me grazing her NYC office shelves and asked what looked good. I pointed to Global Girlfriends, and her face lit up.

“It’s a great story, so inspiring, and really worth telling,” she said, thrusting the book at me. I planned to read Global Girlfriends after leaving NYC, but we went straight to an event in Northern Virginia, where the lovely and accomplished Carolyn Frahm had invited me to speak to her book club about my newly-published memoir. While there, she saw Global Girlfriends in my bag and asked if I was enjoying it. Carolyn’s book club was comprised of women who looked for ways to use their financial well-being to help others–the hosting house’s daughter was recently back from Pakistan, where she and her husband ran a clinic for pregnant women–so I gave Carolyn the book. I’d only read the opening chapter, but some books are just meant to be in the hands of certain people at the right time.

This year, visiting Nichole’s office again, I told her how I’d “lost” Global Girlfriends and asked her if she had another copy. Her face lit up again. “It’s such an important story,” she said, scanning her shelves. “Ah. Here. This is a book I’m really proud of.”

ggWith good reason. Edgar tells the story of how she took a $2,000 tax return and leveraged it into a for-profit company dealing in fair trade goods crafted by women in disadvantaged countries. The story of creating her enterprise is bounded ’round by short stories of the women she works with internationally.

Think of a mirror in a hand-crafted frame, each shiny stone set as part of a pattern into gilt. That’s pretty much what this book is like; each story is self-contained but collectively they reflect back what GG does. And the central story reflects “us”: that is, women of comfortable lifestyles in a wealthy nation. The side stories reflect the lives of women we could have been, had we been born in another country. One of the nicest elements of this book is that it neatly sidesteps that “poor unfortunate souls” crap so many “welfare” programs unwittingly propagate. Stacey talks about looking at begging girls in India, and seeing her two daughters; holding meetings with administrators in run-down offices, and seeing in them her friends, the sisterhood of women who cope with what life throws at them.

There’s an interesting life theory that social workers–Edgar is trained as one–often come up against (as do public health workers, ministers, and just about everyone else; we just don’t name it). The JUST WORLD THEORY says basically that if something’s gone really badly for someone, it must be because they deserve it; blame the victim, for letting themselves become a victim.

We don’t need to talk about the arguments against that theory; Edgar pretty much smashes them without a backward glance as she describes each country more through the lives of the women than the stats that she tosses casually into the narrative.

People interested in social justice, or in the mysterious ways in which women form bonds where men tend to create wars, will love this book. I’m not sure others will be able to sink their teeth into it. It doesn’t start with “why,” but “how.”

I’m very glad, now, for losing my first copy and gaining this second one. Thanks Nichole for getting this story out there, and thanks Stacey Edgar for writing it.

And if you want to go buy something from Global Girlfriends – the women they work with make incredibly beautiful and sturdy items, avoiding what Edgar tactfully calls “the carved giraffe dilemma”- here’s their online store:


Jack’s guest blog this week discusses the family of booksellers, from NYC to BSG

Our second NYC visit, to meet up with Wendy’s editorial team at St Martins Press and her agent Pamela, has been great. We were a little more confident about surviving in the Big Apple this time, even able –with the assistance of ‘shop-sitter’ Andrew–to navigate our way around the subway system and cross streets without getting knocked down.

Another reason for being there was an event Jess (our lovely publicist) had organized at Word Up Books, on Thursday evening. Organizer Veronica met us at the door and immediately said how much she had been looking forward to welcoming us as she had read ‘The Little Bookstore’ with growing recognition of everything Wendy had written about pertaining to their store. “Been there, done that”!

What impressed me most about ‘Word Up’ was how it met our paradigm of what a bookstore should be – truly a community center in its neighborhood. Started a couple of years ago as what was meant to be a very temporary ‘Pop-Up’ store lasting for a week in an empty building, it was so successful that the locals demanded it stay on. First it was a month, then another couple of months and finally a permanent institution. It had to eventually move to different premises and ‘crowd-funded’ the necessary $70,000 opening costs in just a few weeks!

Run entirely by volunteers, Word Up provides a space for all sorts of activities, and always have coffee on the go as well. They keep their costs down by getting donations of used books, plus support from the publishing industry itself in the form of seconds, overstocks, and even editors slipping in a few books to handsell—a win-win for authors, publicists, and sellers alike.

We learned that a neighborhood in New York can also be a ‘small town’ just like Big Stone Gap and has the same needs. This neighborhood had a mix of Spanish speakers from all over the world, plus the usual NYC melting pot and the bookstore specializes in Spanish language reading, but also caters for those other cultures

Finally – our event felt like a real family affair as Wendy’s agent Pamela and Pamela;s assistant Michelle, editor Nichole with her assistant Laura, publicist Jessica, shop-sitter Andrew and his significant other Ali, plus Veronica, store owner Gio, and a phalanx of small business owners from the community joined shop regulars. They made us feel like celebrities, but even more fun, we got to talk books and business, and the business of books, with people who live and breathe it as we do.

Woo Hoo – –