Book Review: “Half The Sky” By Nicholas D. Kristof And Sheryl Wudunn (Vintage, 2009) -- By: John DelHousaye

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 26:1 (Winter 2012)
Article: Book Review: “Half The Sky” By Nicholas D. Kristof And Sheryl Wudunn (Vintage, 2009)
Author: John DelHousaye


Book Review: “Half The Sky”
By Nicholas D. Kristof And Sheryl Wudunn (Vintage, 2009)

John DelHousaye

John Delhousaye is Associate Professor of New Testament at Phoenix Seminary in Phoenix, Arizona. He is married to Tiffany, and they are blessed with two daughters and a son.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide is intended for a broad readership with the aim of uniting those who might otherwise be divided because of their religious and political convictions. The authors, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, were the first married couple to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism on an earlier project. They use their expertise to cast a light on the global sex trafficking industry of young women. They claim the problem has increased greatly in the last two decades because of the collapse of communism, the rise of globalization, and the fear of AIDS (11-12). They estimate there are two to three million prostitutes in India and even more in China (5-6). The underlying premise of the book is that such oppression results from a pervasive undervaluing of women by society. The authors draw a direct analogy with the justifications given for the enslavement of Africans in earlier centuries. The book’s title is based on a Chinese proverb: “Women hold up half the sky.”

Kristof and WuDunn make their argument in fourteen chapters, with an introduction, “The Girl Effect,” which seeks to explain why “107 million females are missing from the globe today” (xv). They claim “thirty-nine thousand baby girls die annually in China because parents don’t give them the same medical care and attention that boys receive” (xiv). A “bride burning” happens approximately every two hours in India, where one- to five-year-old girls are 50 percent more likely to die than boys the same age (xiv, xvi). There are five thousand “honor killings” a year, mostly in the Muslim world (82). The chapters feature heartbreaking interviews with brutalized women, living and deceased, often with their pictures. Stories of women fighting back are also included (52-53). The final chapter gives readers four steps they can take in the next ten minutes, such as joining the CARE Action Network at www.can.care.org.

The authors make their argument in an evenhanded way. They allow women to speak for themselves, giving the reader just enough background to appreciate their courage. This is journalism at its best. Men are not solely to blame; mothers often kill their own daughters: “no group systematically abuses young women more cruelly than mothers-in-law” (68).

WuDunn and Kristof want to join forces with evangelicals and Pentecostals. Both traditions are praised and gently challenged. Women in Pentecostal churches “find themselves exercising leadership and declarin...

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