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Rachel Louise Snyder    

Global Writer & Journalist

Rachel Louise Snyder is the author of Fugitive Denim: A Moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade, the novel What We’ve Lost is Nothing, and No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us. Her print work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times magazine, Slate, Salon, theWashington Post, the Huffington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the New Republic, and others.

Since 1991, Snyder has traveled to more than fifty countries. In 1998, she spent two months traveling through Tibet, Nepal and India and interviewed the Dalai Lama. In 2000, she spent a month driving across Cuba on the eve of the new millenium. Once, she attended a fashion show in the desert outside of Niamey, Niger at midnight—a fact she has never managed to work into any story anywhere. She has covered natural disasters like Hurricane Mitch in Honduras in 1998 and the Asian tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia in 2005.

In 2003, she relocated from Chicago to Phnom Penh, Cambodia and became a contributor for the public radio shows “Marketplace” and “All Things Considered.” While there, she rescued a Cambodian street dog and gave birth to her daughter. The dog is surprisingly uppity. After six years in Cambodia, she moved to Washington, DC and created the 3-minute interstitial “The Global Guru” which she also hosted. “The Global Guru” aired on more than 100 NPR stations across the country and received a 2010 “Zeitfunk Award” for the third most licensed interstitial of the year by the Public Radio Exchange (PRX).

Her first book, Fugitive Denim (Jan. 2008), was excerpted on “This American Life” and received a 2006 Lowell Thomas Award from the Overseas Press Club. When her novel, What We’ve Lost is Nothing, was published in 2014, the Library Journal named her “an outstanding new voice in fiction.” Her most recent book, No Visible Bruises (May 2019) received the Lukas Work-In-Progress Award from the Columbia School of Journalism and Harvard’s Nieman Foundation. She holds a B.A. from North Central College and an M.F.A. from Emerson College. Currently, Snyder is an Associate Professor Creative Writing and Journalism at American University in Washington, DC.

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. 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.

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. 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?

Literary Journalism/Creative Nonfiction: International Travel, Reportage & 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

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