Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Favored Flowers 

This is a book about flowers. More specifically this is a book about the flowers that New Yorkers buy throughout the year for social, religious, or romatintic reasons, and this is a book about the economic networks that move these commodities from where they are grown and cut to where they are placed on kitchen tables, gravesites, or in wedding bouquets.

Suddenly flowers become complicated. Billions of fresh-cut flowers are flown to the US every year, and Americans can buy pretty much whatever flower they want regardless of the season. These flowers are marketed and sold individually or by the dozen, and millions of people's careers involve the growing and transporting of an odd commodity that has no inherent value other that what culture grants it. Where wheat or corn are valuable as food, few buy flowers for purposes other than decoration or to send a culturally-dictated message.

I loved this book. Catherine Zeigler really brings the global economy alive by tracing a single small but diverse good through production, transportation, and delivery. She offers a history of the American flower market from the 19th century through today as well as a glimpse into the marketing, media representation, and retailing sides of the industry. She describes the labor base of the flower market (largely young women) and the multinational origins of the many different flowers sold side by side.

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