Friday, March 1, 2013

Half The Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Half The Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity by Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Published June 2010 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing
Source: the wonderful Nadia of A Bookish Way of Life

Publisher's Summary:
From two of our most fiercely moral voices, a passionate call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world.

With Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn as our guides, we undertake an odyssey through Africa and Asia to meet the extraordinary women struggling there, among them a Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery and an Ethiopian woman who suffered devastating injuries in childbirth. Drawing on the breadth of their combined reporting experience, Kristof and WuDunn depict our world with anger, sadness, clarity, and, ultimately, hope.

My Thoughts: 
I've been wanting to read this book for more than two years. At the same time, I was terrified to read it, fearful that it would be overwhelmingly depressing.

When Nadia was talking about the book on Twitter, I mentioned that it was a book I'd like to read some time, and she was nice enough to send it to me.Still I was afraid to pick it up. In January, again on Twitter, I saw that some bloggers were getting together to make February Social Justice Theme Read month. It was the kick I needed to read this book.

Is is depressing? Yes, very much so. But it is also amazingly hopeful and incredibly thought provoking. I would defy you to read this book and not want to rush out and donate to every charity or organization working to improve the lives of women worldwide.

Kristof and WuDunn cover the many ways that women are oppressed (sex trafficking, honor murders and rapes, rape as an implement of war, maternal mortality, and the ways in which religion has impacted the lives of women in negative ways). They also explore the effect different types of aid impact the lives of those in need, explaining why some work so well while others fail so spectacularly. They certainly have opinions on which are the best ways the collective "we" can help but are able to provide ample evidence to support their conclusions.

Here are some of my takeaways:

1. Women are as much to blame as men in many ways, from brothel owners to mothers-in-law who   physically abuse their sons' wives.
2. We cannot allow political forces, particularly those formed by religion, to influence aid decisions.
3. What we think works in the United States doesn't necessarily work every where.
4. Thinking outside of the box is often the best way to help.

I may have more sticky notes in this book than any other book I've ever read (well, except for Ron Chernow's Washington). Have you read this one? I'd love to talk with you about it.


  1. I love Nicholas Kristof. I have not read this book but I read his editorials regularly. And yes they are depressing and infuriating but so necessary!!!

  2. I haven't read it but I watched the PBS special. Now I feel like I should read it from your review.

  3. I need to read this one, because this has been a subject that niggles at me for a long time, but I also am afraid of it. Afraid of what I will find out, and the powerlessness of not being able to help enough.

  4. Lisa, I'm so happy you enjoyed the book - it sounds like you got so much from it. Definitely check out the documentary if you can - it is so good! I think that PBS will be airing this month, I'm just not sure when exactly. This book is definitely one that not only makes you aware, but also inspires you to help. I loved your post ;)

  5. Very interesting and important book. I don't think many people in 1st world countries realize the levels of intolerance and suffering women all over the world have to endure.

  6. This book totally changed my life. As a result of reading it I started the only chapter of Dining for Women in our city, and one of only 3 in all of Canada! Now we have 5 in Canada, and there are over 400 chapters worldwide. Nick Kristoff has endorsed Dining for Women several times.

    Here is my review:

  7. This is one book that I'm really eager to read. I've been on the queue in the library for months now. It's disturbing that you say this abuse is just as much women's fault as men's...but I can see how that might be the case! I'd just never thought about it before.

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and for participating in the Social Justice Theme Read in February. :)