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Speaking to the World

Rachel Louise Snyder

Rachel Louise Snyder

Global Writer & Journalist


Rachel Louise Snyder is a writer and radio commentator.   She is also the author of Fugitive Denim: A Moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade.  An excerpt of the book – “Dreams of Distant Factories” – aired on public radio’s This American Life and was awarded the 2006 Lowell Thomas Award from the Overseas Press Club. Read More >

Fugitive Denim was also featured on more than two dozen public radio programs across the US including “Marketplace, the World,” and “The Leonard Lopate Show.”   Library Journal named it one of the best business books of 2007.

In 1998, Snyder spent two months traveling through Tibet, India and Nepal, where she interviewed His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and charted the progress of one refugee family's traumatic trek from Lhasa to Kathmandu to Dharamsala. Later that same year, Snyder traveled to Honduras to cover relief efforts after Hurricane Mitch. In 2000, a book she edited called First They Killed My Father became an international bestseller and has now been translated in 19 languages. During the millennium, Snyder drove across Cuba watching the island's social and economic revolution. At the same time, she began spots as an essayist on NPR's "All Things Considered." In 2001, her novella, The Light At San Miguel Dolores Church, became the first book ever serialized on Chicago's NPR and she was nominated for General Excellence by the Society of Professional Journalists.

After 9/11, Snyder covered the war in Afghanistan and the future of Afghan women by spending her entire time camped out with the women held at the Kabul Jail for Women. She also covered Aceh, Indonesia in the weeks and months following the tsunami. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming in National Geographic, Men’s Journal, Jane, Travel and Leisure, the New Republic, the New York Times magazine and Glamour. She is also a contributor to public radio’s “Marketplace” and “All Things Considered.” Read Less ^

Speech Topics

Corporate Social Responsibility & the Supply Chain

Author Rachel Louise Snyder published a book that looked at the world’s first sweatshop-free developing country: Cambodia. Could the country survive in the cutthroat world of global trade and bottom dollar profits? By most accounts, the sweatshop-free experiment was a huge success. Read More >

After living in the country for six years, Snyder prepared to leave Cambodia. But in the weeks leading up to her departure, she learned about a very different experiment in the country. The Phnom Penh women’s prison had hired its inmates to begin sewing for one of the largest factories in town for $2.50 a month. The women talked of their exploitation freely, but also begged outsiders not to publicize their plight—because without the work, they were never allowed out of their cells. And, as is the case with many developing country women’s prisons, many had their children in jail with them.

Snyder found herself in a modern-day ethical quandary. As a journalist, she felt she had to tell. As a humanist, however, how could she condemn innocent children to 23 hours a day in prison cells with their mothers? She decided that while she didn’t have the answers, industry experts should. What would a multinational corporation do in such a predicament?

What followed was a fascinating conversation with the vice president of corporate social responsibility at GAP, Inc. about what they—or any multinational brand—could and should do in such a situation. Using clips from her interview with GAP, alongside photos from manufacturing plants around the world, Snyder spells out such ethical and cultural quandaries as the women in the Phnom Penh prison, in what she calls today’s “post-globalization” world. Read Less ^

Globalization: Manufacturing, Sweatshops, Development/Aid Work & Ethical Consumerism

Rachel Louise Snyder explores the current state of global manufacturing and the use of third-party auditors and monitoring groups overseas; she also discusses the efficacy and pitfalls of multinational manufacturing, and offers a new model for addressing political, cultural, economic, and social issues affecting partnerships across geographical and geopolitical boundaries. Read More >

Her talk addresses such questions as: Do boycotts help or hinder? Do multinational companies wishing to make goods under ethical guidelines overseas do so at the mercy of unscrupulous local actors or governments with little regard for decent working conditions? What is the post-sweatshop world? Read Less ^

Literary Journalism / Creative Nonfiction: International Travel, Reporting & the Mechanics of Writing Nonfiction

Rachel Louise Snyder explores the methodology of using narrative as a means to explore large cultural, political, social, and economic issues. How can stories be told in a way that reaches those who may never pick up a globalization or travel book? How much should a narrator insert herself into a story—if at all? How does journalism approach issues of narrative? Snyder addresses questions like these in a lively, engaging discussion on the state of global exploration, journalism, and storytelling.

• International Trade: Free & Fair Trade, Developing Countries & Economic Issues of Aid & Trade