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Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 8, 2009
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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 of women worldwide. More girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century, they write, detailing the rampant gendercide in the developing world, particularly in India and Pakistan. Far from merely making moral appeals, the authors posit that it is impossible for countries to climb out of poverty if only a fraction of women (9% in Pakistan, for example) participate in the labor force. China's meteoric rise was due to women's economic empowerment: 80% of the factory workers in the Guangdong province are female; six of the 10 richest self-made women in the world are Chinese. The authors reveal local women to be the most effective change agents: The best role for Americans... isn't holding the microphone at the front of the rally but writing the checks, an assertion they contradict in their unnecessary profiles of American volunteers finding compensations for the lack of shopping malls and Netflix movies in making a difference abroad. (Sept.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine
Critics, universally inspired by Half the Sky, used their reviews as an opportunity to take up its message. They praised not only Kristof and WuDunn's clear moral stance and explanation of the issues but also the way they combined individual women's stories and practical advice to give the book an optimistic tone. Reviewers pointed out some flaws, particularly the authors' focus on individual action (such as providing a list of hospitals and schools to direct charity to) while neglecting to criticize the policies of Western governments. As more than one reviewer pointed out, Saudi Arabia, a country with one of the worst records of oppressing women, is a U.S. ally. Nevertheless, critics encouraged readers to pick up Half the Sky, which, according to the Seattle Times, "will ignite a grass-roots revolution like the one that eliminated slavery."
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Top Customer Reviews
Each HTS chapter focuses on a particular “issue” (sexual slavery, “honor” killings, femicide, acid attacks, rape as a warfare tactic, etc.), with the authors providing background, specific examples of some of the women and girls, and then a program (or more than one) that has helped. However, I do agree with some of the reviewers who were more critical of the authors’ journalistic rigor, faulting them for leaving out topics such as lack of sanitation as it especially affects women, or for not “honestly” portraying the realities of sexual slavery (saying that some of the prostitutes were in the business “willingly”; clearly, a 15 year old who was sold into slavery at age 6 cannot be called “willing” simply because she goes back into it when she can see no other option).
For my own criticisms, I wished that the authors had more vividly described the atrocity of genital mutilation, primarily because I don’t think they portrayed the subject in a way that adequately covered the long-term (life-long) suffering of the women.
I would also like to have seen them focus on America’s oppression of women, and for them to illustrate how the U.S. is moving two steps backward for every step forward in women’s reproductive rights. Perhaps that’s a topic all in itself, thus deserving its own book.
That said, the book was an excellent “Oppression of Women Around the World 101” primer, and I would hate for HTS’s detractors’ criticisms to dissuade others from reading HTS. Those of us who’ve taken this first “course” can now dig deeper through other books and more direct research.