Book Shelf: Half the Sky: How to change the world by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Review by Lucy Brook
Half the Sky, by Pulitzer winning husband and wife duo Sheryl Wudunn and Nicholas D. Kristof, is a groundbreaking book that exposes the “most shocking and widespread human-rights violation of our age” – the abuses of women.
Wudunn, a former foreign correspondent and business editor for The New York Times and Kristof, who writes op-ed for the Times as well as an excellent blog, lay out an agenda for the world’s women and detail the three major abuses: sex trafficking, gender-based violence and maternal mortality.
But Half the Sky, named after a Chinese proverb – “women hold up half the sky” – isn’t just a book: it’s a movement, a “call to arms” to “emancipate women and fight global poverty”.
Americans are joining the movement in droves. The book made the New York Times bestseller list, Oprah Winfrey started a giving registry on her website, a documentary and a video game version are in the works and, like Eat Pray Love before it, Half the Sky has become a Western reading group staple. But instead of leaving their husbands, women (and men) are standing up for gender equality in developing nations.
The authors, fearless travellers who stop at nothing (including purchasing sex slaves to free them) to expose the harrowing truths, introduce us to some incredible women, like Mamitu, who grew up in a remote Ethiopian village and now trains surgeons in Addis Ababa. There were times when I closed my eyes in despair or gasped reading the women’s stories, but there’s hope amidst the horror.
As Angelina Jolie said of Half the Sky, “these stories show us the power and resilience of women who would have every reason to give up but never do.”
What’s especially beautiful about the book, and what makes it so essentially unique, is that every page is riddled with hope, and every story has the capacity to inspire action and change. The authors rouse support without chastising privileged Western readers and without inciting hatred of men.
“This is not a tidy world of tyrannical men and victimized women,” they write, “but a messier realm of oppressive social customs adhered to by men and women alike.”
Half the Sky will educate you and open your eyes to unfathomable cruelty, staggering inequality and heart shattering tragedy, but it will also change you in ways you might never have imagined, because, as the authors say in their opening chapter, while “honor killings, sexual slavery, and genital cutting may seem to Western readers to be tragic but inevitable in a world far, far away” we, those privileged Western readers, really do have the ability to change the world. All it takes is an open heart and a little spare change.
Half the Sky: How to Change the World, $27.99, Little Brown.
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Lucy @ Girl With a Satchel