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Half the Sky Audiobook

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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  •  
    Nancy Smyth Buffalo, NY, United States 08-21-11
    Nancy Smyth Buffalo, NY, United States 08-21-11 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "This unabridged book is abridged"

    The book itself is excellent, although very intense. Eye-opening about the extent of violence against women and girls, and inspiring in terms of the stories of people who have challenged the status quo and brought about important changes.

    However, be aware that this unabridged book is abridged in some places. I was reading along in my Kindle version, while listening, only to discover that a section of text was left out. At the end of Chapter 4, the print version has this text included in the last paragraph, but it is eliminated from the Audible version: "In 2009, Mukhtar married a policeman who had long pleaded for her hand. She became his second wife, making Mukhtar an odd emblem of women's rights, but the marriage proceeded only after the first wife convinced Mukhtar that this was what she genuinely wanted. It was another unusual chapter in an unusual life."

    I haven't been comparing the print and Audible versions systematically, but now I'm wondering what else was eliminated (censored?). If the book were listed as abridged, I would have no problem with text being left out. But the fact it's identified as unabridged and then eliminates text makes me angry and mistrustful of other Audible books. Add to this the fact that the text that was eliminated contains content that would be uncomfortable to many Western, Christian sensibilities and I get even more angry. Is someone censoring Audible's books?

    53 of 54 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ella toronto,, Ontario, Canada 10-21-09
    Ella toronto,, Ontario, Canada 10-21-09 Member Since 2013

    Knowledge is knowing the way. Wisdom is looking for an alternative, more interesting road to get there. Audiobooks are that road.

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    Overall
    ""Women hold up half the sky""

    Women are the most under utilized resource in third world countries. By bringing you personally into each of the girl's lives, and describing in great detail each story as it unravels, you become entwined in their circumstance. You wonder if each one lives, dies or prospers through their terrifying story. Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn bring the plight of injustice and brutality of women in third world countries to your heart and mind through first hand experiences. You will read about sex trade and how the men who run the brothels keep the girls addicted to drugs, about gang rapes which often end up in mutilation, causing fistulas where feces and urine can no longer be contained, about lack of health facilities, birth control and education. You will read about violence and abuse of wives, not only by their misogynistic husbands, but also by their mothers in law, and you will understand what FGM is (female genital mutilation or "cutting").

    This is not an easy book to get through, it is hard and real life, but not without at least giving you some hope to help. What I took away from this, is even I can make a difference. The authors explain in detail about micro financing and how you can loan small amounts of money, which will empower women to rise above their situations. They give examples of organizations who pair you up with real people so you can see first hand your positive results. Through Organizations like Kiva, Women for Women Int., Heifer Int., Girls Learning Int., American Jewish World Service and many others, you can actually make a difference in someone's life. When I was finished, I couldn't wait to do my part. In summary, although this book is enlightening, it is also preachy, but without bringing these stories into your soul, and tugging at your conscience and heart strings there would be no change in the world....change that is so badly needed.

    18 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marian 11-01-09
    Marian 11-01-09
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    "Great Book - But Not a Great Audio"

    Still listening to it but I am sorry I am hearing it instead of reading it. The narrator sounds like she is reading a menu. The subject is so compelling and overwhelmning but that is DESPITE the robot rendition. Maybe you can`t dramatize a non-fiction book and it would be inappropriate to have a narrator screeching and screaming but the flat automaton read style does not work. But this is just my personal take - the content is enough to change your mind forever.

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Starlet San Carlos, CA, United States 11-15-09
    Starlet San Carlos, CA, United States 11-15-09 Member Since 2015
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    "If You Care About Human Rights"

    Truly, a wonderful book -- if you care about human rights and, more importantly, want to read a riveting book at the same time, you will love it. There are many anecdotes throughout about real life situations that are happening today all over the world; in particular, the abuse of women. However, rather than just telling about the plight of women, the authors cite many positive examples of how providing women freedom brings benefits to nations, and refers to China as a glowing example. This book opens your eyes wide and it has changed my view completely and I will begin to focus more on causes that help girls and education. Reading some of the Amazon reviews for this book provides much information on how to get involved, written by people already involved and knowledgeable. The book is an eye opener because it is truly incredulous to hear about what goes on regarding women still, today, in many countries This is a must read for everyone. It must be understood by all how much of a sad waste of resources lies in bringing women into the fold of society in a positive way, instead of using them as slaves and worse.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    11-09-09
    11-09-09 Member Since 2011
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    "Awesome!"

    This is a book everyone needs to read... men and women! Well written, shilling, inspiring, and though provoking but more important action provoking! This is not just a book you ask someone after reading "what you think"- you ask "what did you do!"

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kelly West Orange, NJ, United States 03-04-10
    Kelly West Orange, NJ, United States 03-04-10
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    "It could be great, but it's not"

    I was really looking forward to this book because not only the subject matter, but the women facing extraordinary challenges need much more attention. This book could have been really amazing, but I found the narrator to be tiresome and monotone. There was no energy, no realness, no compassion in her voice, there were just words. In terms of the writing style, it was repetitive and at times it was preachy.

    In all, the message is obviously worthwhile and the personal stories about individual women really make this book, which is why I gave it three stars and not less. But the narration was subpar and I gave up on it. I'm going to read it instead.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dr. Thomas Juli Heidelberg, Germany 08-08-13
    Dr. Thomas Juli Heidelberg, Germany 08-08-13 Member Since 2013

    Author of "Leadership Principles for Project Success" (CRC Press, 2010)

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    "Powerful stories"
    What made the experience of listening to Half the Sky the most enjoyable?

    no theory but actual, very moving stories


    What did you like best about this story?

    variety of stories


    Any additional comments?

    This book makes you think and can touch you deeply. Why? Because these stories are real, they are narrated beautifully in a way that you can easily relate to the individuals in the stories. In addition, I have never listened to an audiobook or read a book where the English was so impeccable.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joyfully twilight zone 02-20-14
    Joyfully twilight zone 02-20-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Highly Informative"
    If you could sum up Half the Sky in three words, what would they be?

    Moving, informative, actionable


    What did you like best about this story?

    Specific examples of female abuse likely barely known by those who have not lived or had extend stay experience in poor countries - especially outside of the US, overall maternal health issues, and benefits plus lack of women education - sex trade is terrible...but many other terrible abuses.


    Have you listened to any of Cassandra Campbell’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


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

    Yes, because of interest BUT no practical becuause of time and need to absorb and reflect


    Any additional comments?

    First rate...held my attention and looked forward to next opportunity to resume listening.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    bonnie 01-25-10
    bonnie 01-25-10

    DaWomz

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    "Shook up my world vision"

    This book is an incredible expose that should be mandatory reading for everyone in the "free world." Others out there are not as "free" as we think!

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Neuron Sweden 04-19-15
    Neuron Sweden 04-19-15 Member Since 2015

    Family father, neuroscientist, and non-fiction addict.

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    "Liberating women is in everyone’s interest"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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