Sunday, February 14, 2010


My friend Cathy works in social ministry at a parish in Fargo, North Dakota. She pestered me to read the book Half the Sky saying it was a profound book that would change my perspective on the world. Cathy is deep like that—she wants to nudge my social conscience. It’s her job.

I love Cathy—she’s one of those perpetually optimistic people who is a great traveling companion. But she can also be unrelenting when she wants to nudge a social conscience. ‘Gees, Cathy. All right, all right. I’ll read your book,’ I thought with a martyr-like sigh. ‘As if I don’t have a million other things to do in my incredibly busy life—like shovel the lawn or play dominoes.’

Don’t you hate it when people—especially people who pester you to stretch a little—are right?

Half the Sky was a profound book that changed my perspective on the world. Darn it anyway, Cathy.

If you read the book, you will find yourself thinking about it long after you’ve finished reading it. You won’t be thinking about yourself or your next-door neighbors or anyone you know. You’ll find yourself thinking hard and long about the plight of women in third world countries. You might even get a few new worry lines in your brow.

Darn Cathy. Making me socially aware AND more wrinkled than I already am.

The book deals with marginalization of women, gendercide (killing of women or allowing women to die without intervening), rape as a weapon of war, withholding education and economic opportunities for women, and other topics guaranteed to take you way out of your comfort zone.

Honestly, I’m a poor excuse for a feminist. I’m the first one to roll my eyes when an 18-year-old girl wants to major in “Women’s Studies” in college. “Check the want ads,” I think sarcastically. “See any ads for ‘Women Study-ers’?”

But this book was different.

Did you know that security experts have noted that most of the countries that nurture terrorists are those where women are marginalized?

Did you know that “rule by rape” is a common fighting tactic used in many third-world country’s civil wars?

Did you know that many women are not dying because their diseases are untreatable, but because their societies have yet to make the decision that female lives are worth saving?

Did you know that grassroots efforts by women in third-world countries usually achieve more than all the well-meaning UN conferences put together?

Did you know that nearly everyone who works in poor countries recognizes that women are a greatly underutilized resource, and that around the globe, these countries prosper when they educate women and allow them to use their talents?

Did you know that educating girls is the single best way to lower infant mortality, improve children’s health, and create a more just and dynamic society?

So, Cathy, I read your book. And now I have the weight of the world on my shoulders—or at least the part of the world under the Half the Sky held up by women.

By the way, Cathy also suggested that I might want to put my money where my mouth is and check out, which offers small loans to third-world women who need a bit of loan capital to work their way out of poverty. It’s one of those grassroots projects that is truly making a difference.


Elaine said...

Thank you for the book reviews. They make me go to the library.

2to4aday said...

Elaine: Your local librarian will be so happy you came! I am glad my book reviews make you want to read; they have the opposite effect on other people, making them give up reading altogether.

Sometimes after I finish a deadly serious book, I need to read one that's pure marshmallow fluff. I like to think of it as a balanced reading diet. :-)

Jenny said...

Saw this book on Oprah. When I saw the topic of the day I almost turned the TV off. But when they started talking about giving LOANS...that was pretty cool.

Wasn't there a point in the book too about how when a woman makes money she takes it back to the home to help with the needs of her family vs. if a man makes money he tends to spend it on himself? Maybe I should make Brian be the stay-at-home parent!

Messy@ Bungalow'56 said...

A few more of these posts, and I just might be back on my treadmill. In fact I'm going to start tomorrow. No running, I'll stick to walking for now. Maybe after ten years I'll try the half marathon too.

middleson said...

this books sounds great. i'm adding it to my list! thanks for the tip and the review.

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