Glass, Paper, Beans

Cohen, Leah Hager

Published by Doubleday Business, 1997
ISBN 10: 0385478194 / ISBN 13: 9780385478199
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Synopsis: Once upon a time, we knew the origins of things: what piece of earth the potato on our dinner plate came from, which well our water was dipped from, who cobbled our shoes, and whose cow provided the leather.  In many parts of the world, that information is still readily available.  But in our society, even as technology makes certain kinds of information more accessible than ever, other connections are irrevocably lost.  In Glass, Paper, Beans, Leah Cohen traces three simple commodities on their geographic and semantic journey from her rickety table in the Someday CafÚ to their various points of origin.  And through the intimate portraits of three everyday workers--Ruth Lamp, a night-shift supervisor at the Anchor Hocking glass factory in Ohio; Brent Boyd, a third-generation lumberjack from Plumweseep, Canada; and Basilio Salinas, a man who tends the coffee trees at Pluma Hidalgo, Mexico--a whole new world of connections and values are realized as Cohen, Oz-like, draws the reader across time and continents.

In prose both sophisticated and stunningly simple, Leah Cohen braids the lives of these three unforgettable workers as she traces the origins, myths, and manufacture of glass, paper, and the beloved coffee bean.  An elegant and inspired inquiry into the true nature of things, Glass, Paper, Beans is a classic work on the economy of everyday life.

Leah Hager Cohen is the author of Train Go Sorry: Inside a Deaf World, chosen by the American Library Association as one of the best books of 1994.  She lives outside of Boston with her husband and son.

Review: On the face of it, the morning paper, a cup of coffee, and the mug into which it's poured are simple, expected pleasures--rarely given much thought unless they fail to appear. So it seemed to journalist Leah Hager Cohen, until one particularly focused moment in a Boston coffee shop when she found herself pondering how disconnected she was from the unseen elements that brought her Sunday morning ritual to life. That instant was the genesis of Glass Paper Beans: Revelations on the Nature and Value of Ordinary Things. In it, Hager Cohen traces the stories of the glass cup from which she's sipping, the paper upon which her news is printed, and the coffee beans that gave birth to her morning jolt. This leads to tales of source origins and legends. But she also pays homage to the people involved in turning raw materials into consumer goods: Ruth Lamp, who oversees the Anchor Hocking glass factory's Lancaster, Ohio, select and pack department; Brent Boyd, a fourth-generation Canadian logger; and Basilio Salinas, who tends coffee plants on a cooperative in Pluma Hidalgo, near Oaxaca, Mexico. Woven throughout this thoughtful meditation are the elements that make the market tick, politics, philosophy, and musings on the role advertising plays in removing us from the true qualities of the items that we employ in daily life.

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Glass, Paper, Beans
Publisher: Doubleday Business
Publication Date: 1997
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: Acceptable

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