Thursday, April 17, 2014

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NY1 teams with the Huffington Post and Slate.com to review the latest books and book-related technologies.

The Book Reader: 'Blessing the Hands that Feed Us,' 'Labor and the Locavore'

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L.V. Anderson of Slate reports for NY1 on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."

We all know the reasons to eat more local food. But is it really possible to be a true locavore, eating only food grown in your area? And are the benefits of locavorism all they're cracked up to be? Two new books offer very different takes on the effects of eating local.

In "Blessing the Hands that Feed Us," out now from Viking Adult, Vicki Robin chronicles an extreme experiment in local eating. For a month, she vowed to eat only foods grown within a 10-mile radius of her home in Washington State.

Robin enumerates several predictable lessons her experiment taught her. She says she lost weight, got healthier, cooked more, learned how to savor her food, and strengthened her relationships with her neighbors. 

Robin doesn't break any new ground, and her 300-page book could have stood to be condensed. But if you've been looking for motivation to improve your diet, you might appreciate her cheerleading and her recommended exercises for examining your relationship with food.

But is eating local really the panacea advocates like Robin say it is? Margaret Gray's provocative new book, "Labor and the Locavore," offers a bracing counter to Robin's romantic views of farming.

Gray exposes the ugly underbelly of local food. Its production relies on the labor of immigrants who are systemically underpaid and overworked. Gray spent 10 years interviewing Hudson Valley farmers and the undocumented workers they hire to harvest fruits and vegetables. 

"Labor and the Locavore" isn't a broadside. Gray is a nuanced, thorough and evenhanded writer, which makes her argument all the more convincing.

Gray's book is out now from the University of California Press, and it's a must-read for anyone who considers him- or herself an ally of the food movement.

For more reviews of new titles, go to the Slate Book Review at slate.com/books.

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