Reviews of Egyptian Made




Publishers Weekly

Women in Cairo walk the tightrope between traditional values and the globalized economy in this immersive and sharply observed account from journalist Chang (Factory Girls). In some developing countries, growth in the manufacturing sector has led to an increase in women’s employment, education, and basic rights, but Chang asserts that this has not happened in Egypt, where cultural restrictions on women have clamped down rather than eased up. (Any woman who wants to work must have her father’s or husband’s permission, which is often denied.) Chang profiles individual women she followed over the course of two years, including Riham, a rare female factory-owner, whose attempts to support her female employees and promote a familial work environment eventually gave way to a more authoritarian approach that emulated “the anonymity of the modern factory floor.” While Chang partially attributes this coarsening effect to the obstacles raised by traditional values, she likewise, and more bitingly, blames the leveling effect of globalization, which by pushing for uniformity and ever-greater productivity, squeezes women with family commitments out of the workforce and breeds reactionary politics. Chang’s cogent analysis and lyric impressions (women arriving at work “hug and kiss... as if they’ve been apart for months or years rather than just one day”) are threaded with insight into Egypt’s political and economic history. It’s an eye-opener. (Starred review.)




Kirkus Reviews

a well-rendered, dismaying picture of repression

Award-winning journalist Chang, author of Factory Girls, brings an informed historical and cultural perspective to this close look at women’s lives in contemporary Egypt. Beginning in the 1980s with the spread of fundamentalist ideas, an increasingly conservative society has circumscribed women’s freedom, making them a minority of the nation’s workforce and impeding them from gaining social, economic, and political benefits from job opportunities afforded to women in other modernizing countries. In Egypt, Chang found, women wanting to work outside the home confront stubborn opposition from their families, fiances, and husbands: “The end goal is predetermined—to marry, quit, and become a homemaker.”

The author focuses on three women working in the textile and garment industry: Rania, ambitious and skilled, who rose to become a supervisor; Doaa, a factory security guard who is continuing her education, with aspirations to become a social worker; and Riham, who earned a college degree in production engineering and rejected working for her family’s textile business to establish her own clothing factory. For Rania, trapped in a bad marriage, the workplace served as “a place of refuge.” For Doaa, who divorced her husband, and in doing so was forced to give up custody of her daughters, work meant independence. For Riham, running a factory meant having a chance to innovate.

Unlike these women, many others have been undermined by poor-quality education, especially in rural areas; and some who get jobs often balk at workplace demands, taking breaks to eat at their work area or simply leave. Factory employees “might quit on a whim or vanish for a month, cry at the sight of new technology, or fall asleep in the bathroom.” Drawing on perceptive observations and interviews, Chang reveals a society “not developed enough to benefit from globalization,” where misogyny and patriarchy stifle women’s potential.

A well-rendered, dismaying picture of repression.




Library Journal

Award-winning author/veteran reporter Chang (Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China) contributes an important book that documents how globalization has led to a state of repression for many people, specifically in Egypt, where women are now less likely to enter the workforce than they were a decade ago. Chang accomplishes this by bringing together the individual stories of Egyptian working women with details about labor participation rates. Her findings—based on what she discovered when she found her way onto the factory floor in the textile and garment industry, the epicenter of the Egyptian economy—blend personal aspects with political and theoretical elements so readers can improve their understanding of the industry and the situation for many women. 

VERDICT This book has the ability to tear holes into preexisting ideas readers may have about Egyptian women in the workforce. It also invites them to learn how some women shape their own professional identities. As intensely accessible and personable as Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickeled and Dimed.