Half the Sky: A Review

Emma Watson’s book club,Our Shared Shelf, introduced me to Half the Sky. My very best friend moved about eight hours away. Some of my favorite college memories were of Joz and I sitting at our tiny round kitchen table chatting over tea about books we were reading for class. This book club has given us the opportunity to relive those college chats.

Let me start by saying, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn is a very difficult read.

I don’t mean it has big words or complex sentence structure. What I do mean, is this is a book that pulls at every ounce of your emotions. I could only read a few pages at a time. I had to constantly process the events I was reading about.

Simply put, Half the Sky is about the horrors that women experience all around the world. But, I can’t just put this book simply. It is so so so so so much more than a few horrifying stories about female slavery. This book makes you want to pull every string in society to fix these horrendous problems.

The authors, Kristof and WuDunn, give a lot of advice on how to help and what to avoid when wanting to help. Many Westerners believe they have solutions or are helping, but in reality, some of our actions are only making matters worse, as the authors point out. For instance, there was a period of time when Americans became very concerned about the awful working environments for women. Americans demanded that our government do something about the sweatshops in India. And our government did. Clothing factories were shut down for terrible working environments. While America celebrated a victory, thousands of women lost their only income. When they could no longer feed their children, they prostituted themselves or sold their daughters into sex slavery.

Half the SkyIn addition to these graphic stories, they are accompanied by photos of the women who were abducted, trafficked, beaten, or raped. This forces the reader to see them as a real human versus a far-off third world citizen.

One of my favorite passages from Half the Sky, sticks to the back of my mind as I am struggling to review this book.

“A man goes out on the beach and sees that it is covered with starfish that have washed up in the tide. A little boy is walking along, picking them up and throwing them back into the water.

“What are you doing, son?” the man asks. “You see how many starfish there are? You’ll never make a difference.”

The boy paused thoughtfully, and picked up another starfish and threw it into the ocean.

“It sure made a difference to that one,” he said.”

Another example was a more gut-wrenching story about what was considered tradition in some African countries. If a man cannot afford to offer a bride-price to marry someone he likes, he will sometimes resort to kidnapping and raping the girl. Then, she is no longer a virgin so the parents will let him marry her without a bride-price since she is ‘ruined’. This is considered normal! This happened to a girl in the book, but she refused to marry her rapist and SHE was put in jail after being repeatedly raped. My first reaction was that the government was really messed up. But, the authors point out a much more true statement:

“…change has to be felt in the culture as well as the legal code.”

What You Can Do

Join Women for Women International and sponsor a woman in a developing country for only $15 a month. Maybe you can only sponsor one woman, but as the parable above says, it would sure make a difference to her.

Read this book. Feel your heart change and feel the compassion for these women. Convince your family to read this. It is a necessary part of our education. I urge you to read it. Let me know what you thought of Half the Sky in the comments below!



  1. Stephanie | vimandvigor

    May 10, 2017 at 10:30 am

    I just recently stumbled upon Our Shared Shelf and am so happy I did. Currently reading Women Who Run with the Wolves. I’ll have to check this one out! I admittedly love a good “difficult” read, I feel like it makes us more in tune with humanity 🙂

    1. Britt

      May 10, 2017 at 8:15 pm

      I haven’t quite caught up to the current month’s selection, but so far, every book has been totally eye opening in some way! 🙂

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: