Half the Sky
By Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Knopf September 2009
Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl DuWunn are Pulitzer-prize winning journalists who work for the New York Times. They are also husband and wife. The year after they reported on the hundreds of lives claimed at Tiananmen Square, they discovered that 36,000 baby girls die each year in China because their parents do not give them the same level of care they extend to their brothers. They realized that the horrors inflicted on women in countries such as China, India, Pakistan and the Congo rarely get any media coverage. They set out to change that.
In Half the Sky, the authors address the issues that women in many countries are dealing with today, such as sex trafficking, maternal mortality, wife beating, bride burning and rape. Each chapter introduces us to a woman that Kristof and DuWunn have worked with personally. Their stories are heartbreaking. The fact that we haven’t heard them before is an outrage.
The authors posit that these are more than ‘women’s issues,’ as they are so ignorantly referred to by many politicians. Instead these are transformative issues that, with proper attention, can transform countries. “Think about the major issues confronting us in this century. These include war, insecurity, and terrorism; population pressures, environmental strains, and climate change; poverty and income gaps. For all these diverse problems, empowering women is part of the answer.”
One thing that I appreciated about this book was the honesty of its authors. They admit that nonprofit organizations tend to play up their successes and downplay their failures. They want to keep working in their fields and if they are discredited and lose funding, then they can’t assist the people they want to help. The authors even admit their own faults, when they crossed the line from journalists to saviors and the times when their efforts were not successful.
I listened to the first half of this book on audiobook, narrated by Cassandra Campbell, and read the remainder because I had to return the audiobook. I really appreciated Ms. Campbell’s narration. With stories as painful as this, it would be easy to read with sorrow and hopelessness in your voice. Instead, the narration is poised and factual without losing a very real sense of compassion and empathy. When I was reading the ending, I missed the narration. The stories that I heard from Ms. Campbell’s excellent narration are the ones that stay with me.
This is not a cheerful book. However, it is one with hope. The authors provide an appendix with so many ways for the reader to get involved. Although this is not a happy book, it is an incredibly important one. If you are going to read one non-fiction book, choose this one. It will open your eyes to the incredible cruelties and disadvantages that women are still dealing with in the twenty-first century and make you completely reevaluate the way you see power, safety, and the world.
A note, my friends o' the blog: I am taking a little time off to enjoy the Christmas joy. I will be back one week from Monday, otherwise known as January 2nd. I hope each of you have a wonderful, amazing, stupendous, fantastic Christmas and New Year's filled with happiness, family, and lots of cookies!
PS - Enter the giveaway right here! I will send you, yes you, a book! (Well,,,,if you win. But the rest of you can say, "I entered the very first giveaway on Literary Lindsey and it was awesome. Maybe you should all make T-shirts...)