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The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World Hardcover – March 3, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 186 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Novogratz combined her twin passions for banking and philanthropy after she left a lucrative corporate banking position to work with women's groups in microfinance, the pioneering banking strategy that won Muhammad Yunus a Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. Her work merging market systems with development and social empowerment led her to create the Acumen Fund for entrepreneurs in developing nations, which she describes as the opposite of old-fashioned charity. Novogratz also focuses on her own developmental path as she charts her evolving views of capitalism and how she will change the world. Unfortunately, she stumbles when she strays into biographical territory, relying on clichés to bolster her professional decisions through a personal lens. The book is most interesting when it touches on the difficult decisions that Novogratz and her team must make about financial empowerment—should they charge interest on loans to poor women? can working women find acceptance in a patriarchal society?—but these dilemmas are facilely glossed, keeping the book in an uncomfortable limbo between a personal narrative and a primer on globalization. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Acumen Fund founder Novogratz blends two narratives in this memoir about her years fighting global poverty. In one thread, she recounts her early experiences in Africa developing microfinance organizations to assist women. Many of her reminiscences focus on relationships with the local women in government who were key to her success as well as the personal trials she encountered matching her Western vision with their ideas about the future. She also writes about later work in India and Pakistan. The other thread focuses on her return to Rwanda after the genocide. Although her inside view of global poverty initiatives and politics at the most basic level makes for interesting reading, her personal story intrudes in a manner that some readers may find self-serving. Her reflections on the genocide also detract from the economic discussion in India and Pakistan, rendering the book more Rwanda-centric (and thus more political) than she may have intended. In the end, Novogratz does provide enough information on microfinance to make readers curious to learn more. --Colleen Mondor

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books; Second Printing edition (March 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594869154
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594869150
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (186 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #441,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I really wanted to love this book. I've been a big fan of Jacqueline Novogratz ever since I started reading about the Acumen Fund's work while serving in the Peace Corps in central Africa. In the years since, I've been working for a global health organization in several countries and read up on developments in this field regularly - and like Novogratz, I'm a UVA grad! And getting my MBA! I thought I'd eat this book up.

What first struck me was that this book is much less about the developing world (to say nothing of the Acumen Fund) than it is about Novogratz herself. The author is not a gifted writer, as others have pointed out, and the constant attempts at vivid descriptions of scenes of Africa and India become very tiresome. They also lend to the strong theme of the author's utter naivete. Novogratz seems to be constantly shocked or surprised when something she tries doesn't work, and nevertheless repeats the same self-sure pattern of presumption on her next "project."

I was an innocent abroad once too. The developing world, especially Africa, has a steep learning curve... but it's one that the author, from her luxury accommodations in the capital, jet-setting between countries as an overpaid ADB "consultant," hobnobbing with expat (read: white) elites in tennis clubs and fancy restaurants where local Kenyans/Rwandans/Tanzanians/etc. are nonexistent, never seems to overcome. She's exactly the type of foreign "expert" which she skewers early in the book (and whom exasperates the rest of us in this field). My eyes became sore from so much rolling, hearing her wax eloquent about local people and cultures to which she clearly has little true exposure or understanding of.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Jacqueline Novogratz's writing is not particularly elegant or original, but her stories are powerful. She has worked all over the developing world as a consultant who helps poor women start businesses. She is a strong believer in the transformative power of capitalism.

She could be right about that. But some of her stories, particularly the ones about Africa, seem to point more to the rampant corruption that ruins attempts to improve lives than to the small successes that microfinancing sometimes creates. Her hopefulness and faith in people, despite this endemic corruption, is commendable, but at times it seems a bit romantic, although she often decries this over-optimistic romanticism in other Western development workers.

Her stories about Rwanda are the most riveting. She worked in Rwanda in the 1980s before the genocide and then returned often after the genocide to find her friends and hear their stories. The stories, not unexpectedly, are harrowing. Many women lost almost all their relatives and children; one was in prison for inciting genocide.

Her meditation on the efficacy of bed nets to prevent malaria is thoughtful and convincing, and she discusses honestly the pros and cons of selling versus giving away bed nets.

The reader comes away with a detailed picture of life in the developing world, in all its beauty and horror, and with admiration for the people who keep trying to help despite the enormous obstacles.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There are so many things in the world that want changing -- how does a young, committed college graduate decide where to begin? Jacqueline Novogratz was an international credit banker on the fast track with Chase Manhattan Bank, but her work in Brazil showed her that big commercial banks had nothing to offer the poor. Having always planned to change the world, she turned her back on high finance and took a position in West Africa with a nonprofit microfinance organization. The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World is author Novogratz's own story of her love affair with that work.

Her early days in Nairobi were not a great success. The project was intended to provide microloans to poor women, but the local women leading the project did not appreciate a brash young American who knew nothing of their culture. Sidelined from any role in that enterprise, she wound up in East Africa where she developed a deep commitment to the women of Rwanda. Knowledge of banking principles was not enough to assure success, and she gradually attained the insights necessary for her work to succeed. Rwandan women were traditionally excluded from economic rights, and large international aid projects offered them nothing they could use. Novogratz soon learned that if you help a woman, you help a family. Her goal was to provide microloans AND the skill set necessary to start and grow business. The concerns of the women were food, clothing, and shelter for their families, clean water, basic health care, irrigation for the crops they chose to grow.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I agree with the publisher weekly review of this book. This story is interesting and fascinating but it really didn't live up to the promise on the back of the book. I expected this book to be the type you couldn't put down, the one you finish in one or two days because it is so interesting. I believe in the idea of helping others and empowering women. I wanted this book to be gripping, one I could pass around and share the message. It wasn't that type of book.

In fact, with very little gripping highlights, this book was a struggle to finish.

Other reviewers have mentioned and I'll echo it here. This author is not a gifted writer. While they feel the story is worthy of more stars because of the subject, I have a hard time giving it more than a three star rating.

What the author has to say is important and worthy of hearing but this book seemed to be lacking in passion, carry through and seemed to leave you in limbo at times.

The stories she tells about the people of Africa, the people she knew and worked with are the most telling and fascinating. The stories of Rwanda are heart breaking and worth reading. In fact, that is the her forte- telling the stories of others.

It is when she tries to tell about her experiences or her determination to help that the book seems to develop into an ego boost for the author. When she tries to tell the details about the business it becomes more of a text book for businesses. When she share her stories though about other women, that is where the power lies. I wish she would do more of that.

Again, the message is wonderful and the book has worthy points. Some of the stories are fascinating. Overall though, this book simply isn't the most worthy messenger for the messages
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