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‘Half the Sky’ is remarkable tale

A lovely old Chinese proverb opens this book: “Women hold up half the sky.”

It represents the faith and hope with which the authors write this remarkable book.

Everyone should read Half the Sky, about the conditions of women in Africa and India, which are so horrendous in every respect. Only males are valued there.

Bride-burning takes place, they say, every one or two hours in India. And that is only one of many statistics in this eye-opening book.

There are so many striking qualities to this Pulitzer prize-winning book by New York Times correpondent Nicholas Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn (also a Times correspondent).

In particular, its many factual stories (backed up by bibliographical notes); dramatic descriptive case histories and incidents; coverage of the current situation in various countries; historical perspective (first there was slavery to take care of, then wars and now, it’s women’s turn); horrifying statistics concerning female discrimination; and some encouraging movements already under way – particularly concerning the education of women – were of note.

They are such good writers. They intersperse dramatic, personal incidents among the statistics – all of which are relevant to their point. For example, to check out whether some of the girls kidnapped into bordellos were underage or not and hear their stories, Kristof had to pretend to be a customer.

Girls there worked seven days a week, 15 hours a day with very little food (the customers like their girls thin) and for a small sum, the owner could be bribed to allow the service without benefit of condoms.

The introduction outlines the authors’ agenda, which was to focus on three particular abuses: sex trafficking and forced prostitution (a practice taken part in by millions of girls in India alone); gender-based violence, including honor killings and mass rape; and maternal mortality, which still needlessly claims one woman a minute (it’s seldom girls or women who are sent to hospital; bride-burning could take place as often as one or two an hour).

They also present solutions, such as girls’ education and micro-financing. As many as 100 million (or more) females are missing in those countries.

I have 10 pages of notes on the book, but there is no way I can reproduce what the authors do so succinctly: the hundreds of incidents and many statistics which bulwark their report – especially their deep feelings about conditions in various African and Indian countries; some encouraging success stories and signs of the future; their own narrative and dramatic renderings of hundreds of incidents, signs of the future; their statistics, their conclusions and especially their deep feeling about their work; and the conditions they find are so succinct.

No reviewer could hope to reproduce the essence of the book.

Suffice it to say that Greg Mortenson (Three Cups of Tea); Fareed Zakaria (Post Americn World); Khalad Hosseini (Kite Runner); Angelelina Jolie; Anne Rice (Called Out of Darkness); George Clooney and Tom Brokaw are all on the back cover saying it’s an absolute must-read.

Each chapter has a quote at its head. The one I like best was written by Mark Twain and heads Chapter One: “What would men be without women? Scarce, Sir, mighty scarce.”

Book info:
Half the Sky
By Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Alfred A. Knopf, $27.95

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Posted by on June 6, 2013. Filed under Arts and Entertainment,Book Reviews,Columns,Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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