Half the Sky
This is arguably the most compelling, relevant, and urgent book on injustice in the modern world that I’ve read. An immediate self-critique is that I haven’t read many books in this area, but that fact does not make my statement any less true, nor does it negate the praises of others who were similarly woken and shaken by its contents.
The authors — two New York Times journalists by day — guide the reader through a structured and deep lesson in the reality of oppression and violence against women across the globe. Acknowledging at one point that rattling off statistics is a less powerful motivator than utilizing anecdotes, their writing places women’s stories in the forefront. For all their gut-wrenching, repulsive details, this method is indisputably effective. Rape, forced sex trafficking, genital cutting, involuntary drugging, fistulas, and systemic denial of opportunity form an incomplete list of topics on which Nick and Sheryl report. The often literally gory details of these brutalities will remain difficult to forget.
Perhaps most importantly, the book refuses to play a game of shock-and-awe preaching. Every call to action is qualified by cited research, which in turn is vetted for implicit and broken assumptions. The reader is repeatedly reminded that there is no silver bullet for these issues, so in its place, Nick and Sheryl dish out a whole menagerie of ammunition. Current governmental efforts, individuals starting movements, social entrepreneurship, and international aid groups are all discussed at length.
Every chapter is followed by an afterword that directly engages the reader. The last chapter is entirely dedicated to applying the newfound knowledge from the first thirteen chapters. The appendix is stuffed with 47 organizations and aid groups that maximize cost-effective aid and impact for local people, complete with websites and ways to get involved. Nick and Sheryl take every opportunity to move us as Western readers from our armchairs into places of progress, and I thank them and the women whose stories they shared for it.