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Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide | [Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn]

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

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.
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Audible Editor Reviews

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

Publisher's Summary

Two Pulitzer Prize winners expose the most pervasive human-rights violation of our era - the oppression of women in the developing world - and tell us what we can do about it.

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

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Phoua Clarksville, TN, United States 12-01-12
    Phoua Clarksville, TN, United States 12-01-12
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    "For Mothers and Daughters"
    What did you love best about Half the Sky?

    This story is the story of every woman. Mothers, if you want your daughter to grow up to make a difference make sure they know where to start, by helping their fellow women. If we make the world a better place today maybe our daughters will have a better future tomorrow. This story is a must read and a good project for mothers and daughters to embark on together.


    What did you like best about this story?

    It is a simple listen. The author presents a problem, the pros and cons of some possible fixes, and then a suggestion for the listener to make a difference.


    What about Cassandra Campbell’s performance did you like?

    She is very versatile. She also narrates the "Pretty Little Liars" series and her voice is totally different in this narration.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes and no, the material is sometimes hard to digest but it was hard to hit pause.


    Any additional comments?

    Not for the faint of heart.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brigette MINNEAPOLIS, MN, United States 11-08-12
    Brigette MINNEAPOLIS, MN, United States 11-08-12 Member Since 2014
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    "Good Education!!"
    What did you love best about Half the Sky?

    This book was difficult to listen to at times, some of the stories were so sad. There were parts with too much data (statistics) and it was difficult to absorb in an audio book. Overall though this book made me want to do something about the issues that affect women worldwide.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    BBM Canyon Country, CA 11-03-12
    BBM Canyon Country, CA 11-03-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Life Changing"
    Would you listen to Half the Sky again? Why?

    Absolutely! There are so many stories told of so many women that are incredibly compelling. Not to mention the success stories and amazing efforts being made at a grass roots level to help those poor women and girls who have been so horribly neglected and abused. There is so much information about various organizations worldwide, politics, religion that it must take more than one time listening to/reading the book to absorb how truly vast this problem is.


    What about Cassandra Campbell’s performance did you like?

    I thought she did a wonderful job! The book was written very objectively, without drama or exaggeration and her performance reflected that very nicely. She made subtle changes with her voice that made it clear when she speaking as one of the women interviewed. She also narrated clearly and I found her voice pleasant to listen to.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    After flipping through the channels on T.V. and coming upon the documentary based on this book, I felt compelled to purchase the audio version. I have NEVER been as affected by one single book as by this one. Regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, the message of this book affects and applies to every single person on the planet. We in America are up in arms when it comes to pro choice vs pro life, or equal pay for equal work, which are certainly very important topics indeed. But consider a life as described over and over again in Half the Sky in which a woman is considered inferior, denied basic medical care, denied an education, denied a life of her own, simply because she was born female! Before I had finished listening to the book, I purchased 10 copies of the paperback to send to my family and friends. This book and its message has become that important to me. I am looking into ways as suggested by the author to get involved and hope my friends may follow suit.


    Any additional comments?

    LISTEN TO THIS BOOK!! I challenge you to walk away unaffected!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kindra Harrisonburg, VA, United States 10-11-12
    Kindra Harrisonburg, VA, United States 10-11-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Painfully perfect."
    What did you love best about Half the Sky?

    This book is not easy to listen to, however, it is critical that we listen. The context gives the listener/reader the imperative opportunity to sit with the discomfort and consider what actions must be taken to make a difference. Surely the world cannot ignore the personal stories found in this work. As terrible as it was to hear at times, knowing the pure horror that so many endure must spur us on to stepping out of our comfort zones and making a difference. If that happens...that will be what I love most about this book. I am well on my way toward deep change myself...I hope to meet others there as well. Thank you to all the women who told their stories and thank you to the authors for seeing that their voices did not remain silent but that they can be heard here.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Half the Sky?

    When my 14 year old daughter asked me to turn it off because it hurt her too much to listen. I was in pain too. We talked a little. I asked her if this kind of thing were happening in close proximity to her and she needed help would she want others to turn away because they just couldn't listen to her reality. She understands that we must be informed in order to know how to instigate change and take action...her empathy, sickness, tender spirit and awakening was my favorite moment...so far at least.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    None...so far...not quite finished but the fact is the whole book is good.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Yes, mostly angry and sad...so far


    Any additional comments?

    Not yet.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    BootWalker Houston 09-17-12
    BootWalker Houston 09-17-12 Member Since 2015
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    "Powerful and full of hope"
    What made the experience of listening to Half the Sky the most enjoyable?

    The narration brings additional compassion to the words that capture difficult realities.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I loved that the book is "solutions-oriented", making even the grimmest scenario seem like something I can help change.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    This book is dense and I felt it best to take breaks between listening sessions in order to digest the life-changing information presented.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Justin Sandy Hook, CT, United States 04-29-12
    Justin Sandy Hook, CT, United States 04-29-12
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    "This needs to be mandatory reading for humanity"

    Kristof and WuDunn have written a book based on relentless empiricism and good reporting and it ends up being one of the most wildly important and unbelievably powerful books I've ever read in my entire life. Seriously. Read/listen to this book. The narration is clear and extremely well-suited to writing of this caliber and power. READ. THIS. BOOK.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ken PORT ANGELES, WA, United States 12-06-11
    Ken PORT ANGELES, WA, United States 12-06-11
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    "Incredibly Moving and Informative Book"
    Would you listen to Half the Sky again? Why?

    Yes. The stories, which were both well written and well read, were captivating and moving.


    What about Cassandra Campbell’s performance did you like?

    The clarity with which she spoke and the tempo, made every moment of listening enjoyable.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary The Dalles, OR, United States 05-27-11
    Mary The Dalles, OR, United States 05-27-11 Member Since 2015
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    "Heartbreaking Yet Hopeful"

    If you have ever felt completely hopeless after reading or listening to the news, this book offers a powerful antedote. It tells stories of women throughout the world who have been abused in graphic detail but is very careful to avoid sensationalism. Although the images are hauntingly heartbreaking, the book also outlines actions that each of us can take to alleviate this suffering. Small actions can make a world of difference and the authors of this book have carefully researched programs/ideas that will allow us to help empower the gender that shares "half the sky."

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie 05-02-11
    Julie 05-02-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A must read for every citizen in the western world"

    This books captures the unique problems faced by so much of the developing world's women, and in turn it's entire society. However unlike so many books that bring problems to light, it offers clear solutions, and some of the many challenges we face in implementing them.

    Personally it has motivated and inspired me into social responsibility. At first I was stuck. As a business owner, virtual single-mom with a 4 year old and a husband in Afghanistan, short of teaching in these countries and up rooting my son, I was paralyzed with how I could help. Then I started looking from the lens of what I COULD do. I'm in Phoenix, AZ and problems of hunger trafficking and the like abound here. I searched online and found Volunteer Match (do not work for them so it's not a plug). It led me to a rescue program for refugees. I'm applying to volunteer there. And unfortunate as it is to say this, there will still be significant need in fourteen years for educators and aid in foreign land. I'll head off then.

    But maybe if everyone read this book and was motivated - maybe then I'd be out of a goal.

    Read it. It is powerful and life changing for our planet.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mallory TAMPA, FL, United States 02-27-11
    Mallory TAMPA, FL, United States 02-27-11 Member Since 2015
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    3
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    "Amazing and Earth Shattering"

    This book, both well-written and well told, is something everyone should read. Not only does it discuss the current atrocities taking place to women and girls all around the world, it also tells what you can do to stop it. I challenge anyone who reads this book to do nothing.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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