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Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

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4.28  ·  Rating details ·  51,543 ratings  ·  5,162 reviews
From two of our most fiercely moral voices, a passionate call to arms against our eras 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 a
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Hardcover, 294 pages
Published September 8th 2009 by Knopf Publishing Group (first published September 8th 2008)
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Galen Johnson
Feb 01, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Meredith Holley
Jun 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: You; world movers and shakers
Recommended to Meredith by: Tracey Coleman
I think what I want the most this year is for everyone I know to read this book. I dont really know what to say about it, except that it is exactly what it should be. Its 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 theyre telling campfire stories. I dont mean to be disrespectful in ...more
Heather Montes Ireland
Apr 28, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: _non-fiction
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
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Sana
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Oh my god this is so fucking powerful and sad and eye opening and just go read it right now.

TW: rape and abuse.
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
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
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Allison
Nov 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
"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.
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Caroline
May 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 and
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
Dec 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Gayle
This was actually a selection for my in-person book club a few years back, but I didn't read it at the time, knowing I would be away for that discussion. So when it came around as part of a postal book swap, I appreciated the chance to read it.

I feel when reading this that I am observing a phenomenon that I'm not sure the author(s) is(are) aware of. It feels like many of the lessons are that you can't just sweep in with money and expect to fix a problem. Issues that seem to be specific to women
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Elyse  Walters
Jan 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Everyone should read this book. The stories are `present` [not 10 years ago:]---
shocking--and inspiring>>> this book is not just about woman's issues, but `human` issues.
As the reader, it becomes clear how sexual equality is huge moral struggle `today-in-2010` around the globe....but many people are beginning to take inspired actions, [and we can too:].
Its a great book to give to our daughters after we read it.
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Christine
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 womans 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 women
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Lucy Langford
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a great book. It will make the reader more aware of the difficulties that women face and how they sometimes overcome these circumstances. It shows you the strength and resilience that women show when faced with these circumstances.

The book also provides first hand accounts of the women in these situations and also provides statistics. It is a great balance.

The book explores the different charitable work that helps these women and also writes up how you can help too. It's hard to just stand
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Mehrsa
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really a depressing read. I mean, wow. It sucks to be a woman basically anywhere. And womens health worldwide seems to be an afterthought. So in the way of exposure, this is a must-read. I don't love all their solutions. Micro-credit? Nope. They say capitalism can fix it. Nah, not quite. Also, they're really into NGOs and donations coming from good people in the west, but these problems are systemic and structural. This is going to take a lot more than nice people and NGOs. It's my frequent ...more
Paige
May 07, 2010 rated it it was ok
I finished this book a couple days ago and I don't want to spend a whole lot of time reviewing it. Maybe you can tell by the two stars, but unfortunately it didn't really live up to my hopes for it.

In some ways it pains me to give this book such a "bad" rating, because human rights abuses the world over are such a huge issue, and those disproportionately affecting women are often particularly heinous. This book aims to shed light on these issues and offers some solutions for "solving" the
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Carol
May 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Our fiction book group decided to tackle Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide as our last book discussion this season. Why you ask? Fiction, its not but who better as we are a group totally made up of women; smart, aware, thinking women at that.
There was not one woman who did not feel this was a hard book to read. Many said they would not have finished if not for the book group. I felt it was the least I could do. If there are women who would crawl miles for
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Idarah
Feb 05, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Its hard to escape the escalating decline in world conditions. Whether its 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 the
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C.
Dec 03, 2009 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
Sarah
Sep 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Michael
Outstanding account of the forces that are destroying the lives of young girls and mothers throughout the world and the keys to hope for effective action to address the problems. Sexual slavery and trafficking, genital mutilations, and maternal death and health disasters associated with childbirth are the main focus.

The statistics are staggering, with 2-3 million girls and women forcefully enslaved annually compared to about 50,000 blacks enslaved at its peak in the 19th century, and more
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Charlotte
Jan 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
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dara
Mar 30, 2011 added it
Shelves: ribs, mogo, read-in-2012
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 ...more
Brooke
May 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013, non-fiction
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
Jason
Oct 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, favorites
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
...more
Jeanette (Again)
Nov 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jeanette (Again) 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.
Suzanne
Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, audio
This touched on some important topics that I know very little about. I'm glad I read it.
Zinta
Sep 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 thats 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-ed
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K
Jun 10, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: feminists; Greg Mortenson fans; people with strong stomachs and a high tolerance for polemic
Recommended to K by: It was available for download on audio and had a high goodreads rating
Its hard to be critical of a book with such an important topic and message. Half the Sky increases its readers awareness of the horrific things endured by women in some parts of the world rape, forced prostitution at an early age, honor killings, infanticide for being the wrong gender, genital cutting, etc. The book does this through a series of gut-wrenching anecdotes which succeed in putting a human face on the statistics. Despite the intensely depressing quality of these stories (and they ...more
Tarah
Mar 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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Amy
All things considered, this book holds up fairly well for being 10 years old. I would love an updated version. I first learned about human trafficking around 2008 and I know awareness has grown considerably since that time. While this book didn't tell me anything "new", it reminded me of the importance of staying aware and involved.
Overall, though, this is a powerful book that blends personal stories with facts and figures to convey what women's rights issues across the world. The authors
...more
Katie
May 10, 2010 rated it it was ok
I think it is CRUCIAL to draw attention to the oppression of women, especially the oppression of women of color from around the world. I think my problem with the book is that instead of challenging the system that is oppressing these women, it's throwing options like micro-finance at the problem. Instead of critically examining what kind of system (political or economic) would be least oppressive to people world wide, it's touting capitalism, which always relies on power imbalance, exploitation ...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

Articles featuring this book

The fact that you have American generals sitting around Afghanistan one moment talking about air strikes and the next moment talking about how to...
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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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“When anesthesia was developed, it was for many decades routinely withheld from women giving birth, since women were "supposed" to suffer. One of the few societies to take a contrary view was the Huichol tribe in Mexico. The Huichol believed that the pain of childbirth should be shared, so the mother would hold on to a string tied to her husband's testicles. With each painful contraction, she would give the string a yank so that the man could share the burden. Surely if such a mechanism were more widespread, injuries in childbirth would garner more attention.” 76 likes
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