It was his curiosity about the hard-working hands that sewed his T-shirt that led him on a quest around the world to meet the individuals that made his clothes. After traveling to Honduras, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China and back again, Timmerman, a freelance writer, wrote about his experiences and the effects of globalization.
The author of “Where Am I Wearing?,” this year’s One Book/Many Voices community-wide reading initiative selection, spoke to an audience of more than 600 people Tuesday night at the Pepperell High School auditorium. Before his presentation, Timmerman said he had been curious about the people who literally put together his outfits.
Through his travels, he wrote about the impoverished workers by giving them names and faces, and intimately describing their lives as well as the effects of globalization.
“I went on my global quest to meet the people that made my clothes, and that definitely has local ties to the garment globalization industry here,” he said. “How it impacts our lives and how we can respond to that.”
Timmerman said it was essential to get engaged locally.
“How we shop definitely impacts the world,” he said, “but how we engage locally impacts it even more. I read the essays by the winners of the competition, and I was really impressed with how they related the subjects I wrote about in my book to their own lives. I think that’s really how you tend to process life and process life’s lessons, when you’re able to relate them back to yourself in some way.”
Writing contest winner Elisa Montanaro, a Darlington student, said she was surprised and happy hers was one of the chosen winners.
“I was not expecting it at all,” she said. “I wrote my essay about my dad and my dad’s work in Nicaragua and Guatemala. He worked in a textile company and would come home with these stories about the workers. With the kind of connection about how (Timmerman) felt in the book about those areas and the factories, I thought that was a good connection to make.”
Marlin Wright, a Pepperell High School student, said his essay about how the closing of the Lindale Mill and how it affected those workers came to mind after reading Zimmerman’s book.
“The family that sold the mill overseas tore down every bit of the historical structure of Lindale,” Wright wrote. “Every day I drive by and think about the aura of Lindale now that rubble and demolition has replaced the historical Lindale trademark. What would the mill be like in China, Cambodia, Bangladesh or Mexico?”
Wright said he was happy his essay was chosen and even more excited about meeting Zimmerman.
“I was excited,” he said, adding that he meticulously edited his essay four times before submitting it. “I actually enjoyed this book, so now that I get to see him, in person, it’s really cool. We had a little conversation on Twitter — even better. I kind of got to know him a little before we met. He’s down to earth and easy-going.”
Zimmerman said a community such as Rome has the ability to be connected with the rest of the world.
“See how much in common we have whether you’re a single mom in Bangladesh or you’re a high school student in Floyd County,” he said. “How this experience traveling through the global economy, to meet the people who make our stuff today, who live in poverty, how those experiences changed me.”
He said when he addressed the crowd Tuesday night he planned to talk to them as though he were talking to himself years before his journey, urging them to educate themselves about their world, their consumer products, and of course, the people who make them.
“Get more engaged locally,” he said. “Look to study abroad. Go global.”