Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
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Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

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4.34 of 5 stars 4.34  ·  rating details  ·  23,308 ratings  ·  3,458 reviews
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...more
Hardcover, 294 pages
Published September 8th 2009 by Knopf
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Half the Sky by Nicholas D. KristofLittle Princes by Conor GrennanThree Cups of Tea by Greg MortensonInfidel by Ayaan Hirsi AliMountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
Powerful International Non-Fiction
1st out of 111 books — 214 voters
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Sparrow
Jan 16, 2011 Sparrow rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: You; world movers and shakers
Recommended to Sparrow by: Tracey Coleman
I think what I want the most this year is for everyone I know to read this book. I don’t really know what to say about it, except that it is exactly what it should be. It’s hard to even think for too long about how purposeful and smart Kristof and WuDunn were in structuring and presenting the information they included here because it obviously represents a lifetime of research and investigation, but it comes off as though they’re telling campfire stories. I don’t mean to be disrespectful in desc...more
Galen Johnson
I heard a number of people rave about this book, so I was excited to read it. By the time I was finished with the first two chapters, I was left with an uncomfortable, almost icky, feeling. Not from the subject matter (which is disturbing but a topic I have read about extensively), but from the tone of the writing. I kept reading, thinking it would get better. But soon the book and the uncomfortable feeling became worse, and I started to be able to name the source of the ickiness and my overall...more
Laurel
I found this book to be quite powerful. Pulitzer prize winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn vividly describe the brave plights of women in developing nations in ways that were incredibly eye opening to me. While I was aware of the brutal conditions (lack of education, demoralization, rape, beatings, sex trafficking, mutilations, and murder) of women and young girls going on in parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, I admit I did not fully realize the immense enormity of it....more
Allison
"In the nineteenth century, the central moral challenge was slavery. In the twentieth century, it was the battle against totalitarianism. We believe that in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality around the world."

When I first heard Nicholas Kristof make this argument at the PIH symposium in October, I was taken aback. Not because I didn't believe and have a firm understanding that gender discrimination worldwide is shockingly brutal and horrifying....more
Heather
Seeing the amount of praise given this book by progressives and conservatives alike, it seems like smug and self-righteous really sells. Or, perhaps it's that whole journalistic idea 'if it bleeds, it leads' that works to capture the reader's attention. Maybe, just maybe, Westerners really know that little about the world outside our borders and the fight for gender equality within and without those borders--and this book actually makes them care.

While as much as I wish that I could say I liked...more
Elisabeth
I agree with other comments about this book. Half the Sky is not meant for those who seek scholarly material about the current state of women throughout the world. The authors use heart wrenching stories to describe the reality millions of women experience each day.

The reason I gave this book two stars is not because I disagree with the premise of the book or the authors' push to radically alter the trajectory of global rights -- sign me up! What frustrated me, and in the end left a sour taste i...more
Eve
It’s hard to escape the escalating decline in world conditions. Whether it’s refugees’ stories from far flung war-torn countries, or reports involving the abuse of our environment and its critters, there is no limit to the different forms of media that are reporting global events non-stop. Even if the view outside our kitchen window is generally uneventful and peaceful, books like Half the Sky are a cold slice of reality pie.

Half the Sky focuses on human rights violations against women around t...more
Chris
At one point in their book, Half the Sky, Kristof and WuDunn write, “There will be less [sex:] trafficking and less rape if more woman stop turning the other cheek and begin slapping back”.
WuDunn and Kristof, a married couple, detail much of what are “woman’s” issues in the developing world. Their book focuses on sexual trafficking, micro finance, maternal health, as well as religion and education. The argument that they put forward is that developing countries need to emancipate women (and wome...more
C.
Dec 08, 2009 C. marked it as to-read
Recommended to C. by: Meredith Holley
I'm a little bit concerned when empowerment of women becomes a political tool. It's easier for a masculinised system of power to say that women need to be educated in Afghanistan because it will help reduce terrorism than to say that women need to be educated in Afghanistan because they are, you know, human beings. Domestic violence, rape and general mistreatment or oppression of women can easily be turned into a political symbol that represents nationalistic or other concerns (as is shown very...more
Caroline
Okay….so this is one of the top five book I have ever read in my life. Some books change you – and this is one of those books.

For a while now I have realised that my favourite writers are journalists. They really know how to make the medicine go down with a spoonful of sugar. Never more so than with this book. The subjects covered are devastating – basically female abuse in all its forms….infanticide, neglect, lack of education, abduction , sex slavery, rape, genital mutilation, honour killings...more
Shelley
The goal of this book is to pop the bubble of first world complacency and shed light on the oppression and cruelty that afflicts many women across the globe, particularly in parts of Africa and Southeast Asia. Instead of inundating readers with statistics, which are often specious and difficult to fathom, Kristof and WuDunn profile women who have suffered at the hands of societies that don't recognize the inherent worth and dignity of the female gender. The suffering has a human face, and it's f...more
dara
Sep 02, 2012 dara added it
Shelves: mogo, read-in-2012, ribs
I started reading Half the Sky on March 31st of 2011. GoodReads tells me this, but I would have remembered regardless. I read the first fifty pages of the book in bed and felt the heaviest weight on my chest. It simply hurt too much to bear alone. I left the bedroom and joined my boyfriend in the living room, where he was seated on the couch. I snuggled up in his lap, wanting him to hold me, to comfort me, to ease the pain I was feeling; instead, he found it to be the right moment for breaking u...more
Sarah
Okay, I've totally had a change of heart regarding this book. Oddly enough, it took an ignorant comment from someone I don't even know on Facebook to look at it differently. Someone was making the argument that giving a baby boy a circumcision in the US is the same as female genital cutting in third world countries. This person went so far as to say that infant boys feel just as oppressed as the girls who are cut. WHAT??!! Clearly, this person has no idea what these women and girls go through. I...more
Charlotte
It's eye-opening, sad, bleak and compelling. The abuse and strength of women in developing and third world countries is told through the stories of individual women the authors have met. They plead the case for education and health care to make a difference. Here's a review that says it much better than I can:

From 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...more
Jeanette
May 14, 2010 Jeanette rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jeanette by: Kristine B
I have some philosophical differences with the authors, and I think they were too soft on conservatives (worldwide, not just Republicans). However, their global vision and dedication to humanitarian goals are unparalleled and inspiring.
Antof9
This is definitely a heavy book to read, but it wasn't unbearable. Beyond the obviously heavy subject matter, I think what was most overwhelming was all the myriad ways there are to help in this area. Almost too many. Certainly that's not the fault of the authors; in fact, they did a great job presenting so many ways to help, and they've clearly done their research. It was just almost too many ways.

That said, this is a powerful book, and the authors have done a really excellent job of explaining...more
Tarah
Now look. I get a lot of people telling me "oh my gosh, you have to read X book about X topic because YOU will love it". And I'm usually like "screw you, grandma, you don't know me!". No one likes to be pigeon-holed. Well, maybe you do. But I don't. So I came to this book thinking: "screw you everyone in the world who has been saying I should read this"... that being said:

This book is amazingly well-written. It's fluid and important; engaging and pressing. I've admired Kristoff's writing from th...more
Janelle
Wow! What a moving and important book to read. I watched the PBS special a few months back and was very moved, but the book is 100 times better! I wasn't sure whether it would be an easy read because I worry about that with non-fiction, but the stories are well written and interest-provoking. One problem is that I had a hard time taking time off from reading it and I had nightmares of being a prostitute in a brothel. Please read this!

There are slaves in the 21st century - young women sold to bro...more
Booknblues
Half the Sky
by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
5 stars
pp. 296

After reading numerous reviews of Half the Sky , having many friends who insisted that I read it and have it languish on my wish list, I decided it was past time when I should make the investment of time and money and read the book, which had been causing such a stir. I chose my time fortuitously as, the documentary was airing on PBS as I was finishing the book.

Half the Sky deals with many human rights issues which effect the hea...more
Zinta
This book is important. So important, in fact, that first reviews from reputable sources are calling it the most important book of the year, some even calling it the most important book of our time. Yes. It is.
Now and then we must pick up a book that awakens in us all the compassion, all the indignation, all the heart we need to make a difference in the world. And that’s the best part: each and everyone one of us can.

Nicholas Kristof may be a name you already recognize as a New York Times op-e...more
Brooke
I've been a longtime reader of feminist books, websites, and blogs, but I still had difficulty getting through this book. At times I put it down for a few hours to emotionally recover from what I had just read. After wondering for a while why I found this book difficult to read, I concluded that it was its focus on individual stories instead of broader statistics or general descriptions. The authors spend most of their time discussing specific women's lives and then relating these individuals to...more
Julia
Jan 02, 2010 Julia rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: EVERYONE!!!
Recommended to Julia by: I read about it months ago before it came out.
This is one of the best books I have ever read for many reasons. The subject matter is fascinating and important. The style is great - individual stories and interspersed with lots of supporting facts and figures. I also enjoyed that each issue or problem had a multi-faceted approach - there are many gray areas in aid - and it is interesting to see them and to see how we can fine tune the aid we give to really have the best results. It is also shocking and eye opening to realize when one looks a...more
Sarah
This book was one of the hardest books I have ever read. It was heartbreaking, but simultaneously incredibly inspiring. Not only is there a ton of impeccably researched information in here about sex trafficking, female genital mutilation, and prostitution, but the authors present all kinds of suggestions for easy, achievable ways to get INVOLVED and make a difference in the lives of women worldwide. Not only did this book inspire me to explore microeconomics and donate to a woman through somethi...more
Jason Alexander
Everyone should read this book, EVERYONE!

This is reporting at it's best. This book gives you facts and numbers galore, but the researched data plays a support role to the personal stories that provide the human basis for each topic addressing the oppression of women, as well as, the inroads in fighting it. It really covers every side of the story and does it so intelligently that it works on both sides of the brain in ebbs and flows; it touches you emotionally and then has you transition into mo...more
Elizabeth
One of the most inspiring books I've ever read and may change what I'd like to do in the future as far as my fundrasing efforts go (would love to perhaps work for one of the orgs profiled in the book).

It's a must read for all my amigas/amigos and for all our politicians, leaders in many fields from military to aid workers, philanthropists, educators, etc!!!
Greg
One of the best books I have read. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn have travelled around the world extensively to chronicle inspiring and poignant stories of women who have lived their dreams and often against impossible adversity. This is a book for the century, thanks to Nick and Sheryl.
Furqan
[Review deleted. Because my opinion of book has changed.]
Ashley
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah
I am overwhelmed by this book and also inspired. I read it in two sittings. The first I stayed up until 3 AM because I couldn't put it down. Then I waited about a week to pick it up again because it is quite difficult to read some of the stories. But once again when I picked it up I couldn't put it down. The authors do a fantastic job of weaving facts, statistics, histories, and most importantly, stories from women around the world. Most of the stories have to do with a horrible situation that t...more
Stephanie I
I read this for a class where we were discussing what women can teach us about freedom and the place of women within the development discourse. This book, though it attempts to do something noble and important (to inform people of sex trafficking, an industry can base one of its biggest "supports" in development) it does it in dangerous ways. Somethings I found: most of the grassroot organizations that are mentioned, that help women and people in developing and underdeveloped countries, are led...more
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Nicholas Donabet Kristof is an American journalist, author, op-ed columnist, and a winner of two Pulitzer Prizes. He has written an op-ed column for The New York Times since November 2001 and is widely known for bringing to light human rights abuses in Asia and Africa, such as human trafficking and the Darfur conflict. He has lived on four continents, reported on six, and traveled to 150 countries...more
More about Nicholas D. Kristof...
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“More girls were killed in the last 50 years, precisely because they were girls, than men killed in all the wars in the 20th century. More girls are killed in this routine gendercide in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the 20th century.

The equivalent of 5 jumbo jets worth of women die in labor each day... life time risk of maternal death is 1,000x higher in a poor country than in the west. That should be an international scandal.”
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“In the nineteenth century, the central moral challenge was slavery. In the twentieth century, it was the battle against totalitarianism. We believe that in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality around the world.” 41 likes
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