Book Review

The Contractors

The ContractorsThe Contractors
Author: Lisa Ko
Series: Out of Line Collection #4
Publisher: Amazon Original Stories
First Published: September 1, 2020
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 24
Format: eBook
Source: Prime Reading

Synopsis:

A split-screen view of the tech industry’s underbelly—and the unifying campaign of two distant women seeking to expose their employer—by Lisa Ko, award-winning author of The Leavers.

In this eye-opening short story, a tech reporter’s mistake unites two women eight thousand miles apart. One in New Jersey, one in the Philippines. Same name: Sandra Guzman. Same job: content moderators for a mega social media website. What transpires between them is a friendship that changes their perceptions of each other’s privilege and challenges the power of the very industry they work for.

Also in this series: Graceful Burdens

My Thoughts

Social media has become a monolith of big business, billions of people around the world use social media platforms daily generating unfathomably amounts of wealth from ad revenue and data mining. There are billions of posts every day, and some of the most brutal, most hateful content can be shared to a worldwide audience at breakneck speed. With a surge of information and other media shared constantly, it has necessitated content moderators, people who filter posts to remove dangerous and harmful content. Social media moderation has become a dark underbelly of the social media industry, it is a job that is relatively unrecognized by most, it’s not a well-paying job, and moderators are subjected to traumatizing content.

“What do you do with all that hurt? You eat it and keep it inside you. You watch and delete, but every day there are two thousand new posts waiting.”

The story follows two women with the same name working the same job for the same company, Sandra in New Jersey and Sandie in The Philippines. Sandra is the daughter of Filipino immigrants, a single mother struggling to make ends meet. Sandie lives in the Philippines with her extended family living in close quarters, she is considered to have a job with decent pay. These two women meet by accident and forge a bond of mutual jealousy over the other’s perceived privilege. I didn’t expect to relate so much to this story as I found myself in Sandra’s shoes, being a fellow Filipino American and a single mother for much of my adult life.

The Contractors exposes the terrible abuses of the social media industry, the unequal wage gap for women, and the poor working conditions of contracted workers both in the U.S. and abroad. It is a short think piece that packs a punch. I only wish that this story could’ve been extended to a full-length novel, a few of the plot points are rushed especially at the end, and it is the type of story that deserves more attention both for the insightful commentary about labor exploitation and also of the vastly different experiences of Filipinos in the U.S. and in The Philippines.


Warnings: descriptions of violence, self-harm, extreme animal abuse, sexual harassment


About Lisa Ko

Lisa Ko is the author of The Leavers, which was a 2017 National Book Award for Fiction finalist, won the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, and was a finalist for the 2018 PEN/Hemingway Award and the 2017 Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award. The Leavers was a USA Today bestseller and named a best book of the year by NPR, Entertainment Weekly, Buzzfeed, The Los Angeles Times, Electric Literature, the Irish Times, and others, and has been translated into five languages. Her short fiction has appeared in Best American Short Stories and her essays and nonfiction in The New York Times, The Believer, and elsewhere.

She is the recipient of fellowships from Hedgebrook, the Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Ucross, Blue Mountain Center, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and the MacDowell Colony, among others. She has taught creative writing at the City College of New York, Indiana University, the New School, Queens College, the One Story Summer Writers Conference, and in many community settings, and has lectured and spoken widely about writing, literature, migration, and the US. She lives in New York City.

Jamie

I’m a Filipino American blogger, historian, and lazy writer. I enjoy books, video games, anime/manga, and smoking hookah.

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