Summary and book reviews of Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof

Half the Sky

Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

By Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn

Half the Sky
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Sep 2009,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Jun 2010,
    320 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book 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.

They show how a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad. That Cambodian girl eventually escaped from her brothel and, with assistance from an aid group, built a thriving retail business that supports her family. The Ethiopian woman had her injuries repaired and in time became a surgeon. A Zimbabwean mother of five, counseled to return to school, earned her doctorate and became an expert on AIDS.

Through these stories, Kristof and WuDunn help us see that the key to economic progress lies in unleashing women’s potential. They make clear how so many people have helped to do just that, and how we can each do our part. Throughout much of the world, the greatest unexploited economic resource is the female half of the population. Countries such as China have prospered precisely because they emancipated women and brought them into the formal economy. Unleashing that process globally is not only the right thing to do; it’s also the best strategy for fighting poverty.

Deeply felt, pragmatic, and inspirational, Half the Sky is essential reading for every global citizen.

INTRODUCTION
The Girl Effect

What would men be without women? Scarce, sir, mighty scarce.

— MARK TWAIN

Srey Rath is a self-confident Cambodian teenager whose black hair tumbles over a round, light brown face. She is in a crowded street market, standing beside a pushcart and telling her story calmly, with detachment. The only hint of anxiety or trauma is the way she often pushes her hair from in front of her black eyes, perhaps a nervous tic. Then she lowers her hand and her long fingers gesticulate and flutter in the air with incongruous grace as she recounts her odyssey.

Rath is short and small-boned, pretty, vibrant, and bubbly, a wisp of a girl whose negligible stature contrasts with an outsized and outgoing personality.When the skies abruptly release a tropical rain shower that drenches us, she simply laughs and rushes us to cover under a tin roof, and then cheerfully continues her story as the rain drums overhead. But Rath's attractiveness and winning personality are perilous ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About This Guide
The questions and topics that follow are intended to enhance your group's conversation about Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's enlightening and inspiring book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

About This Book

The questions and topics that follow are intended to enhance your group's conversation about Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's enlightening and inspiring book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.


Reader's Guide

  1. "It appears that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battles of the twentieth century" (p. xvii). Why is...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse

Half the Sky is full of practical advice for the movement as a whole, as well as for individuals who wish to make sure their dollars are truly helpful on the other side - not just a way for us to feel like we're contributing, but a way to truly make a difference in the global struggle. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to understand the issues at hand or find a way to help, and I think it should be required reading in high schools across the country.   (Reviewed by Beverly Melven).

Full Review Members Only (930 words).

Media Reviews
Author Blurb George Clooney
I think it’s impossible to stand by and do nothing after reading Half the Sky. It does what we need most, it bears witness to the sheer cruelty that mankind can do to mankind.

Author Blurb Khaled Hosseini, author, The Kite Runner
An unblinking look at one of the seminal moral challenges of our time. This stirring book is at once a savage indictment of gender inequality in the developing world and an inspiring testament to these women’s courage, resilience, and their struggle for hope and recovery. An unexpectedly uplifting read.

Author Blurb Melinda Gates
The stories that Kristof and WuDunn share are as powerful as they are heartbreaking. Their insight into gender issues and the role of women in development inspires hope, optimism, and most importantly, the will to change. Both a brutal awakening and an unmistakable call to action, this book should be read by all.

The New York Times - Irshad Manji

…this gripping call to conscience…tackles atrocities and indignities from sex trafficking to maternal mortality, from obstetric fistulas to acid attacks...but the poignant portraits of survivors humanize the issues, divulging facts that moral outrage might otherwise eclipse.

Huffington Post

Every once in a while, a book comes out with such a compelling message that you have no choice but to be moved and take action in response to it... I encourage you to get at least two copies -- one for yourself and one for a woman you love.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. New York Times columnist Kristof and his wife, WuDunn, a former Times reporter, make a brilliantly argued case for investing in the health and autonomy of women worldwide.

Kirkus Reviews

Intelligent, revealing and important.

The New York Times

Passionate yet practical . . . [Half the Sky] is both stirring and sensible . . . This wonderful book combines a denunciation of horrible abuses with clear-eyed hope and some compelling practical strategies. The courageous women described here, and millions more like them, deserve nothing less.

The Washington Post - Carolyn See

I really do think this is one of the most important books I have ever reviewed. I may be wrong, but I don't think so.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer

As Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" once catalyzed us to save our birds and better steward our Earth, "Half the Sky" stands to become a classic, spurring us to spare impoverished women these terrors, and elevate them to turn around the future of their nations.

Reader Reviews
Cloggie Downunder

A Must Read
Half The Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, is a “must read”. It is by no means an easy book to read; it is sometimes quite confronting; in places you will cry; you will be disgusted...   Read More

Theresa Alada

Half the sky
Reading this book opened my eyes to a lot of problems been faced by a lot of women and girls in this century. lets all not just seat and listen to this stories but try to aid in one way or the other and it will make a lot of difference in many life's...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Guides to Giving
Kristof & WuDunn frequently mention two websites that can help readers decide which charitable organizations to give their money to. These two sites - GiveWell.net and CharityNavigator.org – rate charities based on efficiency and other factors and make that information public. You can see whether $90 of your $100 goes to those in need, or only $65. There are more factors than just efficiency of course, but the more information donors have, the more likely it is their money will be used in the way they imagined. Both sites cover charities in general and are not specific to charities that help women in developing countries.

Charity Navigator has dozens of top-ten lists, such as 10 Highly-Paid CEOs at Low-rated ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Half the Sky, try these:

  • Airlift to America jacket

    Airlift to America

    by Tom Shachtman

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    This is the long-hidden saga of how a handful of Americans and Kenyans fought the British colonial government, the U.S. State Department, and segregation to "airlift" to U.S. universities, between 1959 and 1963, nearly 800 young East African men and women who would go on to change the world.

  • Banker to the Poor jacket

    Banker to the Poor

    by Muhammad Yunus

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    This autobiography of the world-renowned, visionary economist who came up with a simple but revolutionary solution to end world poverty - micro-credit.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Shotgun Lovesongs
    Shotgun Lovesongs
    by Nickolas Butler
    Nickolas Butler's debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, follows five life-long friends, now in their mid-...
  • Book Jacket: Gemini
    Gemini
    by Carol Cassella
    How good is Gemini, Carol Cassella's book about a Seattle intensive care physician who becomes ...
  • Book Jacket: The Goldfinch
    The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer for Fiction.

    Her canvas is vast. To frame a story about art, love and ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Who Said...

Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you'd rather have been talking

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.