Our Shared Shelf: Half the Sky

In case you missed it, we have recently started following along with Emma Watson’s feminist book club, Our Shared Shelf. Last time, we read Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl. For September/October, the book pick is Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Through this book, Kristof and WuDunn take the reader on a journey through Africa and Asia and introduce us to many of the women living there who have been oppressed.

Through the help of admirable and tenacious people and organizations, many of the women we meet have been able to transform their own lives and become independent and successful. Take the story of Srey Rath, for instance, a Cambodian teenager who was sold into sex slavery at the age of fifteen. After escaping the brothel in Malaysia she had been originally sold to, Rath was arrested and imprisoned for illegal immigration, and then sold to another brothel in Thailand by a policeman after she’d served her prison sentence. Rath was luckily able to escape the second brothel as well and finally return to Cambodia, where she met a social worker who introduced her to an aid group. American Assistance for Cambodia used donations to provide Rath with materials to start a business as a street peddler, and she now earns a steady income that she will be able to use to give her family a bright future. Half the Sky teaches us that by allowing women to explore and discover their full potential instead of putting them down, not only is it beneficial to the women themselves, but it is also necessary for economic growth.

What I found great about Half the Sky was how incredibly readable it was. Before starting the book, I was afraid I would not be able to enjoy or take much away from it because I’ve had experiences with nonfiction works that get bogged down in statistics and jargon. However, Kristof and WuDunn have done a fantastic job putting together a book that is truly about people and their stories, a book that I was able to connect with.

Too often, books or other pieces of journalism that leave their readers feeling impassioned about certain issues or causes fail to turn those feelings into action. The momentum built up by a powerful, moving piece of writing is useless if that momentum is allowed to die out without finding an avenue to express it. Kristof and WuDunn, recognizing this tendency, end their book with a chapter titled “What You Can Do” and explain what actions people can take to help in the global liberation of women. They include a list of “Four Steps You Can Take in the Next Ten Minutes” and an appendix of close to fifty organizations that support women, pushing readers to take action as immediately as possible. In addition, Half the Sky has turned into a global movement dedicated to raising awareness of women’s issues and providing the resources to take action. Visit their website to learn more about their projects and initiatives, and become a part of the movement today.

You can also grab the book from Amazon.

Thanks for joining us again for our Our Shared Shelf reads; we’ll see you next time for the November/December book (TBA)!

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Author: Patricia Thang

Reader of books, listener of podcasts, lover of dogs. Just trying to survive my twenties.

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