A 60-year-old rural Ethiopian villager seeking a second wife purchases 13-year-old Mahabouba for $10. Seven months pregnant by age 14, she flees savage whippings at home, running away to give birth alone. Labor lasts seven days. Mahabouba loses her baby, her pelvis rots; she can't control her bowels or bladder; she can't even walk or stand. Hyenas circle, lured by her blood. Then, Mahabouba, who is profoundly brave, crawls to a missionary one town over, inching forward on her arms. She lands at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and recovers there, at "puddle city", as the devoted, progressive staff fondly jokes, since patients drip urine all day long (floors are mopped many times hourly).
Pulitzer Prize-winning husband and wife journalists Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn root out the barbaric injustices brutalizing Mahaboubas all across developing nations in Half the Sky, a magnificent, roaring abolitionists' plea to shoulder the burden of female oppression by empowering our fellow humankind. "This is a story of transformation," they urge.
Wife abuse; fistulas; sex slavery; honor killings; female genital mutilation (vaginal openings are sewn up with a wild thistle); illiteracy; sex-selective abortion; starvation; AIDS; and the epidemic of rape are among the hard, heavy contents of this book. Yet Half the Sky, as navigated by Kristof and WuDunn, transcends its narrative of despair with vivid, descriptive language and by balancing meticulous gumshoe reporting with intimate profiles in gender inequality. "What You Can Do" is the book's uplifting final chapter, ticking off immediate ways for listeners to connect with women in need.
Cassandra Campbell whose low pitch and measured pacing lend dignity to the mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters whose horrors she's voicing masterfully narrates Half the Sky. Campbell is a journalistic narrator, too much a pro to nuance her reading with shock or hysterical outrage. This restraint is most appreciated during exceptionally anguished confidences, as when Zoya Najabi of Kabul reveals her mother-in-law once shredded the soles of her feet with a stick "until they were like yogurt". Nita Rao
An old Chinese proverb says, "Women hold up half the sky." Then why do the women of Africa and Asia persistently suffer human rights abuses?
Continuing their focus on humanitarian issues, journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn take us to Africa and Asia, where many women live in profoundly dire circumstances....and some succeed against all odds.
A Cambodian teenager is sold into sex slavery; a formerly illiterate woman becomes a surgeon in Addis Ababa. An Ethiopian woman is left for dead after a difficult birth; a gang rape victim galvanizes the international community and creates schools in Pakistan. An Afghan wife is beaten by her husband and mother-in-law; a former Peace Corps volunteer founds an organization that educates and campaigns for women's rights in Senegal.
Through their powerful true stories, the authors show that the key to progress lies in unleashing women's potential, that change is possible, and that each of us can play a role in making it happen.
©2009 Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn; (P)2009 HighBridge Company
"If you have always wondered whether you can change the world, read this book. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn have written a brilliant call to arms that describes one of the transcendent injustices in the world today." (Fareed Zakaria, author, The Post-American World)
Family father, neuroscientist, and non-fiction addict.
I am not a stereotypical feminist feminist. I think that there is overwhelming evidence demonstrating that men and women differs from each other, and not just because of cultural or environmental influence, but because men have a Y-chromosome whereas women do not. I also think that these differences mean that the ambitions of men and women can differ leading to different life choices. For example, men more easily fall in love with and seek to acquire power while women values family more. This does not mean of course that any specific man has to be a certain way, merely that there are small average differences between the two sexes.
I hope that the above is sufficient to convince any reader that I really am not an obnoxious feminist, and therefore readers should trust me when I say that this book is also not a “feminist book”. The authors nowhere argues that men and women should be equal or that men are evil or anything like that. Rather they argue that men and women should have equal rights and that granting this is actually a win win scenario for everyone on the planet. While the discrimination against women, which is still widespread in the world today, entails a huge amount of suffering for the victimized women, men would also benefit it these practises were halted. A country in which half the population is stuffed away in the closet will never reach the same heights as a nation in which everyone contributes with their own set of skills. China’s economic takeoff occurred when women entered the workforce, and the wealthiest (and happiest) nations on earth, are those where the law does not distinguish between the sexes.
To be sure, the fact that men would benefit should not be the most important argument for halting discrimination against women. It should be self evident that, from a moral perspective, men and women should be granted equal rights and equal opportunities at birth. What they decide to do with their lives should be up to each individual (as long as it means no harm to others). If someone is against equal rights for men and women they should probably not read this book, but then again, if anyone holds such arcane opinions I doubt that they have read much at all…
Over 14 chapters the two journalists visit various “women issues”, such as sex trafficking, maternal care, freedom of speech, family planning, contraceptives, sexual abuse etc. In each chapter they provide statistics, making sure to use realistic estimates rather than the inflated numbers reported by some organisations. They also exemplify the different issues with stories about individual human beings, noting that such stories are necessary for the reader to understand, and act. Some of the more surprising statements in the book is that maternal health is actually not a very cost-effective way of helping women. If we assume that there is only limited funds more lives can be saved by providing condoms and iodine, and education. The authors also assert that sweatshops have been a blessing, especially for the women. If we again look to China, these sweatshops have allowed women to climb the career ladder and many of them now live comfortable, productive and fulfilling lives. It is easy for us in the west to be nostalgic about Chinese people riding bicycles in the countryside but it can become a bit absurd when westerners think they know what type of life is right for Chinese women.
With a combination of anecdotes and statistics to back them up, the authors provides a comprehensive overview of the challenges that remain with us when it comes equality between the sexes. They also show us how the world will improve if we meet these challenges, not only for the women but for everyone.
I read this book in the span of 36 hours. It is heartbreaking and hopeful, tragic and empowering. It is not an angry treatise on those EVIL men that inflict pain on women, nor is it a girl-power anthem. It puts in black and white (or spoken words) the realities faced by many women in the developing world. But it doesn't leave us there. It provides solutions - some big, some small - that westerners can do to provide medical services, or help many of these women help themselves. It also indicates some of the mistakes that have been made with the best of intentions.
Another reviewer stated that Cassandra Campbell narrates this book flatly. I disagree, respectfully. She does not over-dramatize, but lets the authors speak for themselves. With a book like this, she was a terrific choice.
Well worth your time and credit.
I loved this book! It really opened my eyes to the difficulties women face around the world. And while the stories of the various women were at times shocking and very hard to listen to, I appreciated on how the authors focused on potential pragmatic solutions that have been successful in the past. They provide numerous examples of ways to get involved and make a difference as an ordinary person so that you don't just read the book and say "that's horrible" and move on with your life.
The mixture of personal exemplars combined with sound acaemdic research in this book comes together in perfect harmony to create a one of a kind story.
Wow. I cannot believe that I was clueless to the horrible atrocities and hardship women around the world face! Learning about these hurrdles through heartbreaking stories helped me feel like I was in these women shoes.
I also enjoyed learning about how solutions to some of these problems come in unexpecting ways.
This book covers very important topics regarding women's rights and gender inequality. If you want to learn more about these topics and the worldwide efforts to address these topics, this is a good place to start. However, be prepared for biased journalism - the authors do not hesitate to include their personal opinions and the way in which the opinions are shared majorly detracted from the point of this book. I wanted to learn more about the fight for gender equality and the rights for women and girls globally - I did not choose this book to read about the political preferences of the authors and the personal travel of the authors around the world. Very disappointed. The authors also paint a very negative picture of american youth as arrogant and uneducated, which is an unfair exaggerated generality.
Narration was fine - it was easy to listen to but I did not like that all girl voices in interviews sounded high pitched and stereotypical of frivolous ditzy girls.
Listen if you are ok with butchered Chinese. Don't know how good or bad the other foreign terms sound.
The story is definitely worth listening to.
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
In “Half the Sky”, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn document the world’s guilt for misogyny. They report the contempt of men, and prejudices of society toward women. Their assessment of guilt is not limited to gender. Misogyny originated with men but the author’s stories and evidence suggest perpetuation by cultures that include both genders.
“Half the Sky” is filled with interviews of brothel women in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. The authors recount young girl’s seduction, abduction, or purchase from families around the world. Different societies discount the humanity of women. Young girls are so desperate to survive; they believe stories about jobs in other countries and accept human traffickers’ lies to leave their families. In some cases, families are so poor they sell their girl-children for family survival. Prostitution and pornography are growth industries that perpetuate cultural misogyny.
Two hundred thousand years of gender discrimination is unlikely to be reversed in this century. Kristof and WuDunn infer that each step to fight misogyny makes a difference. But, each described fight seems like a drip of water meant to erode a granite mountain. Progress is slow because men are still mostly in control. By the end of Kristof’s and WuDunn’s book, guilt is not assuaged and equality seems a millennium away.
Can't make that judgement. I only have the audio version and it was well read, informative, entertaining...I cried throughout most of the book.
I like how they personalized the information.
I didn't have a favorite. She did a wonderful job on all of them.
I found myself having to pause the book and compose myself to listen on. It brought up every emotion that I have. As a result, I am finishing up a course to be certified to teach English overseas.
I only have one question for the authors. At one point they bring up the Prophet Mohammed's first wife and use her as a positive example for women but never mention that she was only 6 (?) when he married her. I am not sure about that exact age but I read a biography of him and it was disturbing to say the least.
I prefer reading it, but I don't have time. I thought the narrator should be reading a chick lit book or at least show more compassion in her reading.
My favorite person of interest was Usha. I thought she was brave in standing up to Akku Yadav and inspired other women in her community to do the same. I believe in cases like this, capital punishment is necessary.
Yes. The material is compelling and brings up a lot of issues I am interested in learning about so I can learn how to stop it.
The speakers were also the authors, which gave credence to this travesty. I was so moved that I've recommended it to my book group and support some of the assistance organizations indexed. The narration is honest.
A must-read for anyone concerned with the plight of women and social-justice issues--will really open your eyes.
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