THE ALIGNIST Box Review
THE ALIGNIST is a country-themed book/cause box with a mission to “create an empathy-based understanding of the world”. The founder of THE ALIGNIST, Beenish Ahmed, is a reporter and the idea for the subscription box came to her after reporting on immense human tragedies around the world and realizing that it was hard to get people to care about strife in faraway places. With THE ALIGNIST, Beenish seeks to inform subscribers about the world in a more focused way, one that she hopes begins with empathy and ends with a deeper understanding of the realities of a country, so that whenever a story from that country makes international headlines, subscribers will have a reason to care.
How it Works
THE ALIGNIST is a quarterly book subscription box that offers two membership levels: Just the Facts subscription ($25 every 3 months) or The Whole Story subscription ($60 every 3 months). Every three months, THE ALIGNIST sends members a country-themed box. With the Just the Facts subscription, subscribers get a specially selected work of international fiction along with a custom-made "roadmap" to connect the novel’s plot story to lived realities, historical insights, and key statistics to help make sense of the world in an in-depth and engaged way. With the Whole Story subscription, members also get a work of fiction and the roadmap plus an array of ethically sourced artisanal goods, culinary items, authentic recipes, and art objects from the featured country, to create a multi-sensory experience of the featured country that gives back to people living there.
However, if you don’t want to commit to a subscription, you can make a one-time purchase of a box from THE ALIGNIST online store. Each box costs $60 and ships within one month of purchase.
Getting THE ALIGNIST
I subscribed to THE ALIGNIST on June 18 and my box should have shipped by the end of July based on the calendar on THE ALIGNIST website but I received an email on July 28th apologizing for the delay in the shipment. My box was shipped on August 20th and I received it on August 24. THE ALIGNIST arrived in a colorful yellow box and the country theme was Haiti. The box contained the following items:
The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat (paperback) - $10.59
Haitian Pain Patate (sweet potato pudding) recipe
Haitian Sòs Pwa (Haitian bean sauce) recipe
Wooden heart ornament
Brass dove ornament
Kreyòl Kwizin Organic Pikliz – Spicy Pickled Relish & Garnish - $8
What I Liked and Didn’t Like
I liked that I was able to get a 50% off coupon on my membership because that allowed me to try out the Whole Story subscription. Also, I liked the book that was included because I know of Edwidge Danticat and I have been wanting to read another book of hers, Krik? Krak! for some time now and so I am happy that I can finally read one of her many novels. And I liked the box in which my items were packaged, it was a bright yellow box with THE ALIGNIST written on the front. Additionally, I liked the roadmap, which provides meaningful context to the fictional novel and helps “connects fact to fiction”. I also appreciated the recipes that were included.
Unfortunately, I had far more dislikes of this box than I had likes. First, when I opened the box, I realized that there was no filler in the box, so all the items were moving around, it is miraculous that the jar of pickled relish and garnish did not break. Also, I thought it was an unusual choice to send relish in the summer because the jar was so hot when I touched it that I almost threw it out for fear that the over 90 degree heat may have spoilt the contents (I haven’t tried the relish yet, so the jury is still out on whether the heat caused it to go bad). Additionally, two of the items were decorative, essentially trinkets, one of which was damaged (the paint on the heart ornament was chipped). I also wished that the box included spices to go along with the recipes, for example, the Sòs Pwa (Haitian bean sauce) recipe called for an ingredient called ti salé or lardon and I did not know what that ingredient was or where in SLC to find it, so I will probably never be able to try that recipe.
But most importantly of all, I don’t think this box is a good value for money and I would have been very upset if I had spent $60 on this subscription and received the box that I did. I think even $30 was too much money for what I received but due to the fact that the box “gives back to the people” in the country, I decided not to get too annoyed. Which brings me to another point, whenever boxes or business says they are “giving back”, it needs to be explicit about how exactly it is doing this. As someone who was born and raised in a developing country, I am always suspicious of these claims and although I know that THE ALIGNIST does give back in terms of giving subscribers items made by local artisans, it would have been nice to know in what other ways THE ALIGNIST is giving back to these communities. And although this has no bearing on the quality of the box, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the goals of THE ALIGNIST are pretty lofty considering the fact that there is little evidence that empathy leads to changes in behavior.
Based on the one box I received, I would not recommend THE ALIGNIST. It really pains me to say that because I am from a developing country and I know how big a deal it is for local artisans to be able sell their wares to on the international market. I believe that Ms. Ahmed means well but the value for money for this box just was not there. And, with the huge exception of the choice of book and the roadmap, which undoubtedly took a lot of effort to put together, this box just did not feel very coherent.