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
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2009, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2010, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Beverly Melven

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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.

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...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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 (634 words).

Media Reviews

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Reader Reviews

Rj

Half The Sky
Outstanding book that everyone should read. The oppression and abuse of women occurs worldwide. This book will open your eyes and you will want to make a difference. Read it and tell others to read it and then think about what can be done to help ...   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

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

kash

halfway there
I had to read this book for my anthropology class, and it seems like a good read at first. Though as you read you see some inconsistencies, such as the the girl from Nepal not considered as a trafficked victim cause she didn't cross the border, when ...   Read More

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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 ...

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