Half the Sky

Having entered a post-idealistic lull since graduation, I’ve found a healthy rally point for advocating social change within the book, Half the Sky, recommended by Danni Reaves. As harrowing as it is uplifting, each chapter tells the story of a different woman, and her fall and rise within societies strictly governed by male partisanship. Co-written by a married couple, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, they brilliantly piece together a book that aptly tells of experiences many of us have heard, but paid little heed to.

So what makes this book different?

It provides tangibles. It doesn’t naively triumph over its own shock value. If shared time and again, it has the power to be catalyze a revolution against terrorization of women.

Perhaps this short, anecdotal excerpt will encourage a read-through:


While sitting in the border shack, Nick began talking with one Indian officer who spoke excellent English. The man said he had been dispatched by the intelligence bureau to monitor the border.

                “So what exactly are you monitoring?” Nick asked.

                “We’re looking for terrorist, or terror supplies,” said the man, who wasn’t monitoring anything very closely, since one truck after another was driving past. “After 9/11, we’ve tightened things up here. And we’re also looking for smuggled or pirated goods. If we find them, we’ll confiscate them.”

                “What about trafficked girls?” Nick asked. “Are you keeping an eye out for them? There must be a lot.”

                “Oh, a lot. But don’t worry about them. There’s nothing you can do about them.”

                “Well, you could arrest the traffickers. Isn’t trafficking girls as important as pirating DVDs?”

The intelligence officer laughed genially and threw up his hands.

                “Prostitution is inevitable.” He chuckled, “There has always been prostitution in every country. And what’s a young man going to do from the time when he turns eighteen until when he gets married at thirty?”

                “Well, is the best solution really to kidnap Nepali girls and imprison them in Indian brothels?”

The office shrugged, unperturbed. “It’s unfortunate,” he agreed. “These girls are sacrificed so that we can have harmony in society. So that good girls can be safe.”

                “But many of the Nepali girls being trafficked are good girls, too.”

                “Oh yes, but those are peasant girls. They can’t even read. They’re from the countryside. The good Indian middle-class girls are safe.”

Nick, who had been gritting his teeth offered an explosive suggestions: “I’ve got it! You know, in the United States we have a lot of problems with harmony in society. So we should start kidnapping Indian middle-class girls and forcing them to work in the brothels in the United States! Then young American men could have fun, too, don’t you think? That would improve our harmony in society!”

There was an ominous silence, but finally the police officer roared with laughter.

                “You’re joking!” the officer said, beaming. “That’s very funny!”

                Nick gave up.

                People get away with enslaving village girls for the same reason that people got away with enslaving blacks two hundred years ago: The victims are perceived as discounted humans. India had delegated an intelligence officer to look for pirated goods because it knew that the United States cares about intellectual property. When India feels that the West cares as much about slavery as it does about pirated DVDs, it will dispatch people to the borders to stop traffickers.



~ by Chris Kyle on February 25, 2012.

4 Responses to “Half the Sky”

  1. that part in the book made me realize just how oblivious we humans can be about other people. i’m glad you liked it, CK! i believe in the power of a moving story and i’m glad Half The Sky has moved your heart as well. i’d recommend it to anyone.

  2. Awesome! This is a great book, I am glad you are reading it Chris. I read it last year and promptly sent a copy to my sister because I thought it was so great!

  3. Yes! Half the Sky is probably the book I’ve recommended to the most people. It’s an eye-opener, for sure, but about topics that affect so many people in our world that it’s a shame we are ignorant about them in the first place. Kristoff and WuDunn are two of my heroes.

  4. Haha I love that I’m commenting on this after Sarah, who is the one who got me to read the book (ok, make that “reading”… still in the process). I too have been recommending/buying that book for so many people since then! And the part that you quote is also a story I’ve shared several times– it is so deeply disturbing to me, especially as it’s told from right here in Bihar. Thank you for posting this, Chris!

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