6 April 2013

The Red Riviera

Reviewer: Kelsey
Author: Kristen Ghodsee
Format: Paperback
Pages: 240
Rating: 6 out of 10

Summary (Goodreads): This compelling ethnography of women working in Bulgaria’s popular sea and ski resorts challenges the idea that women have consistently fared worse than men in Eastern Europe’s transition from socialism to a market economy. For decades western European tourists have flocked to Bulgaria’s beautiful beaches and mountains; tourism is today one of the few successful—and expanding—sectors of the country’s economy. Even at the highest levels of management, employment in the tourism industry has long been dominated by women. Kristen Ghodsee explains why this is and how women working in the industry have successfully negotiated their way through Bulgaria’s capitalist transformation while the fortunes of most of the population have plummeted. She highlights how, prior to 1989, the communist planners sought to create full employment for all at the same time that they steered women into the service sector. The women given jobs in tourism obtained higher educations, foreign language skills, and experiences working with Westerners, all of which positioned them to take advantage of the institutional changes eventually brought about by privatization.Interspersed throughout The Red Rivieraare vivid examinations of the lives of Bulgarian women, including a waitress, a tour operator, a chef, a maid, a receptionist, and a travel agent. Through these women’s stories, Ghodsee describes their employment prior to 1989 and after. She considers the postsocialist forces that have shaped the tourist industry over the past fifteen years: the emergence of a new democratic state, the small but increasing interest of foreign investors and transnational corporations, and the proliferation of ngos. Ghodsee suggests that many of the ngos, by insisting that Bulgarian women are necessarily disenfranchised, ignore their significant professional successes

My Thoughts: I had to read this as a textbook for my anthropology class. It turned out to be more interesting than I thought. I felt that, at times, the author was repeating a lot of information but, considering that this was a textbook for me, it was a good thing because I could retain the information she was giving the reader. There was a lot of information to take in. I thought that I would hate this book but it was actually pretty good. I love finding out how other people in the world live, even if it isn't all bright and sunny there.

This is the type of book that makes you want to talk about what is going on in the world. You want to talk about those issues that affect women, and all people. 

There are enough pictures in the book to explain the setting. The country and areas which the author refers to are clearly described and so are the people that she interviewed. It was great to have the point of view of those that lived this life, not just someone standing on the outside looking in. 

I also must say, though it's kind of rude of me, that I'm glad the author didn't say the solution to the countries problems would to be more like Americans. The west isn't as great as it seems. At times, though I know it has a lot of downsides and I didn't have to live through what these people did, I believed that their old way of running things sounded better than dealing with all their hard times. Maybe I was just looking for an easy way out.

I cannot imagine what the lives of these people are really like but it was great to get a small glimpse of it. I really feel for these people.

To Finish: I thought this was a fairly good book. It wouldn't be something that I would have just picked up for fun but it was still interesting. If you are interested in the world, other countries, or economics then you should check out this book. It's short, a quick read. 

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