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    Review: Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

    Half the Sky

    I read the nonfiction work Half the Sky a couple of years ago as a part of a summer reading assignment. Its content blew my mind. Husband and wife team of journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn touch on the many injustices faced by women internationally, a subject I was only briefly aware of prior to reading. 

    Raised in a safe community with trustworthy parents and adults surrounding me, I haven’t personally experienced many of the situations and lifestyles that the authors detail in the novel. However, I feel that it is important for everyone to learn about the oppression that many women worldwide experience. Awareness allows us to work together and end these injustices. 

    What I Loved

    My favorite aspects of the book were the nature in which the authors gathered information and the structure of the writing. Kristof and WuDunn not only did extensive literary research on the topics they investigated, but they actually traveled to several third world countries and interacted with the women there. The book is a series of interwoven essays and anecdotes that discuss the authors’ observations during their travels. It also highlights the personal stories that they gathered from the women they spoke to. In my opinion, the first-person narrative and anecdotal evidence were what made this book so stimulating and captivating.

    Half the Sky is divided into three main parts. The first third of the book focuses on sexual abuses faced by women around the globe. Then, the second third focuses on childbirth and family planning. Finally, the last third is all about education, micro-businesses, and the actions readers can take to help. Each section is filled with small anecdotes, commentary, and additional research that captivate readers as they make their way through the book. 

    The Book’s First Part: Human Trafficking

    In the first third of the book, readers are taken to a small village in Cambodia. Here, the harrowing realities of human trafficking are unveiled. I was shocked and heartbroken to hear that in this part of the world (and in several other countries), it is commonplace for girls as young as eight or nine years old to be captured and traded. These girls are stuck in a very abusive environment for a large portion of their lives. They must obey their master’s commands and remain completely shut away from their families and the rest of society.

    For many of these women, the contraction of HIV/AIDS is common and equivalent to a death sentence. For others, getting kicked out after youthfulness fades is customary. They are then left to fend for themselves in society. This is an incredibly difficult task given that they have been taken far from their families and the communities they grew up in. To make matters worse, they usually have minimal education since they were captured at such a young age.

    Kristof and WuDunn interviewed several young girls, and their stories are included. These personal anecdotes are an absolute must-read and are so incredibly emotional and intriguing. In this section, I also loved learning about organizations that help save the lives of women who have been trafficked through monetary, educational, and other forms of support.

    The Second Part of the Book: Limited Medical Access

    In the second part, the lack of doctors and medical personnel in third world countries is highlighted. One anecdote that stood out to me was that of a woman from Cameroon who was unable to give birth due to a blocked cervix. The birthing attendant decided that sitting on the woman’s stomach and jumping up and down would help. This ruptured the woman’s uterus, causing more problems. Living in the United States, many of us trust our health care providers and receive quality care from trained professionals. It was mind-opening to learn about the consequences of a lack of education. This section of the book taught me many important lessons about the power and value of humanity.

    The Final Section: Micro-Businesses

    The final section of the book was, in my opinion, the most optimistic. I learned about the concept of micro-businesses. Within these, women are given a small amount of money from a donor that they then use as an investment to start their own business. They are very powerful because they allow women to rebuild their lives and feel empowered after hard experiences such as trafficking and childbirth issues. Additionally, organizations that are offering resources for women are mentioned and several actions readers can take are detailed.

    Final thoughts

    Half the Sky was overall a very informative and thought-provoking read. This book really helps garner a better understanding of the oppression and injustices that some women around the world experience on a day-to-day basis. I highly recommend that everyone read this at some point in their life. If you are interested in learning more and/or taking action, visit

    To learn more about Human Trafficking click here. If you or someone that you know is a victim of human trafficking, call 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733.

  • Book Review, Celebrities,, Shero, Woman's History

    Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

    Book Review Michelle Obama

    Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

    Although Becoming was released in November of 2018, it wasn’t until recently that I finally had the opportunity to read it. A memoir by former First Lady Michelle Obama, Becoming is organized into three sections, “Becoming Me,” “Becoming Us,” and “Becoming More,” that bring readers on Mrs. Obama’s journey through several key elements of her life, including her childhood on the South Side of Chicago, her marriage and life with Barack Obama and their daughters, and her experience as the First Lady of the United States of America. I have always loved hearing Michelle Obama speak, and that same strong, intelligent, and elegant voice is portrayed in her writing. I found Becoming to be a very engaging memoir, and there were many important takeaways I had from reading it.

    1.Be aware of your surroundings and any changes that may be occurring: Michelle Obama discusses how she was always a very observant and opinionated individual. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Mrs. Obama discusses that the area wasn’t always as Black-populated as it is now. When she was in elementary school, her class at Bryn Mawr Elementary School had a fair number of white students as well, but the number of non-black students dwindled significantly as the years passed because more and more white families were moving to the suburbs. Through her observations and awareness of the concept of race from a young age, Mrs. Obama was able to become a more thoughtful and societally-competent individual. She would take these experiences and ideas into the future as a law student and woman of great power.

    2. People with authority may not always be correct: When Michelle Obama was in her senior year of high school and applying to colleges, her school guidance counselor told her that she wasn’t “Princeton material.” Instead of taking this as a set-back, Mrs. Obama stayed confident and reached out to other individuals in her school and community to help support her through the process. She successfully gained admission to Princeton University, the school of her choice, proving to herself (and to her guidance counselor) that she was, in fact, Princeton material. Big takeaway: it’s important to always believe in yourself and not let one’s title intimidate you.

    3. Don’t underestimate yourself just because the people around you seem smarter. At Princeton, Michelle Obama found herself to be a definite minority, both as an African American student and as a woman. Princeton, primarily white and male, was intimidating at first and Mrs. Obama felt that she may not belong. However, as she immersed herself in her classes and participated in the discussions, she realized that although the other students may have had a stronger educational foundation than she did, that didn’t make them smarter than her. Michelle Obama realized that she was a valuable member of the classroom, and this helped her succeed as a student at Princeton.

    4. Do what makes you happy. Life may be shorter than you think. One of Michelle Obama’s closest friends at Princeton was a woman named Suzanne Alele. Joining college as a pre-med student to satisfy her parents’ wishes, Suzanne soon realized that it wasn’t the path for her. She was lighthearted and loved parties, and she did what made her happy. Suzanne decided to travel after her years at Princeton, and Michelle Obama initially thought Suzanne wasn’t making the best use of her Princeton education. However, when Suzanne lost her fight to cancer and died at a very young age, Mrs. Obama felt that it was good that Suzanne had spent her life being free-spirited and doing the things she loved. Life may be shorter than we think, so we should always work to live each day the way we want.

    5. It’s okay to not always have a plan: Michelle Obama discusses how she was always very keen on organization and having a plan. Describing her journey from Princeton to Harvard Law School to her job as a lawyer at the firm Sidley Austin, she tells readers that she compared her accomplishments to checking off boxes on big list of plans for her life. However, this changed after she met Barack Obama, who was spontaneous and chose to pursue his interests and take life as it came. Mrs. Obama realized that life didn’t always have to be so planned out, and sometimes success could be achieved by taking advantage of opportunities that came one’s way and through hard work.

    6. It’s okay to ask for help. The transition to the White House was understandably difficult. Through words of encouragement and support from her brother Craig, Michelle Obama made the decision to move to the White House with her husband and family. She requested her mother to help her take care of Malia and Sasha during this process, allowing her to ultimately take control of and adjust to the situation without feeling extremely overwhelmed and burned out. Receiving help can allow an individual sort out their life and can actually help them be more productive.

    Both an interesting and informative read, I learned many important life lessons from Becoming. This is a very empowering book, especially for young women. Becoming is definitely a must-read, and is a great book for the summer if you haven’t already read it!

    Find it here,

    Looking for more good books? Check out our other book reviews, like this one by @bella_the_book_fairy,

    Or, check out your local library where everything is free!

  • Book Review, Books

    Why You Should Read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

    Really, why should you read it? 

    When I picked up this book to read it, it was completely random and it was so much better than I anticipated it would be. It was incredibly eye-opening to real issues that are going on in people’s lives that we don’t realize. I loved this book because not only was it well-written but the story was so relatable and makes you laugh, which I feel like is hard in a piece of writing. Throughout the novel you see the Eleanor develop and grow into a new person, while overcoming her past.

    This book is brilliant in the way it brings to light the effect of loneliness. So many people, especially in the age of social media deal with loneliness. The author based Eleanor’s out of the motivation to show people the effects of long-term abuse, loneliness, and social awkwardness. The author helps you see these issues from a personal level, while being entertaining.

    I think everyone should read this book. Eleanor’s character is hilarious, funny, oblivious, and she doesn’t care what anybody thinks. Her character is inspiring. Even though it is fiction, it shows you a new to see and understand people that deal with these issues. It gives you an inside look into what goes on in their brain and may even help you to not judge someone by the way they look or act. You never know what someone has been through.

    Add this to your book list and you won’t be sorry!

    Looking for other good books? Check out this review of The Book Thief,

  • Book Review

    Asking For It: A Book Review

    Book Review

    Written by guest blogger Mary Noble. Follow her on Instagram @motherofreaders

    TRIGGER WARNING: Content addresses sexual assault and sensitive subject matter.

    There are books that have been written to alter your perception of the world. These books are not hard to find, often sitting in plain sight, a pretty cover deterring from your ability to recognize them at first glance. These books are frequently inspired by true events. Throughout every 24 Hour News Cycle, we become blind to any lingering good in the world.

    These books are fiction but contain a plethora of truth. The hard truth captivates readers. The best books will change you. Although it is back on the shelf or at the library, it finds its way back into your thoughts. The story will haunt you. These books have challenging content, and are frequently banned.

    However, they are irresistibly relevant.

    A remarkable example of these alluring tales is Asking For It, by Louise O’Neill. Asking For It tells the story of Emma O’Donovan, a seemingly happy, confident, and beautiful young woman. The world is at her fingertips until she sexually assaulted in her small town in Ireland.

    The aftermath of her attack slowly chronicles as Emma begins to recollect. The torment she endures while seeking justice is actually more shocking to her than the assault. Torment from not only strangers but her friends and family as well.

    During this time, Emma became victimized all over again.

    She was torn between those closest to her and her community. Emma’s supporters are enraged by her tormenters. While the community accuses her of slandering town heroes.

    Once the story starts reeling you in, it begins to unravel.

    Reader’s initial impression of Emma is quite wrong. The happy girl everyone thought she was, never existed.

    Readers aren’t meant to like Emma. Louise O’Neill did not intend for the protagonist to be an angel. Should that change ones perception? Should it be more difficult to empathize with her?

    The traumatizing events taking place in Asking For It are based on the real life events of an actual crime that occurred in America.

    The author does not depict an innocent victim. Instead, readers are given a troubled and flawed young woman. Emma feels so real at times that it does not feel like fiction. Victim blaming is flawlessly dissected in this work, showing first hand what happens to atypical victims.

    When the accusee is more valued than the accuser, can the victim get justice?

    Reading books with challenging content, including rape and abuse, is a pursuit for readers who are curious about these topics. Stories like this appear in the news. However, they are often portrayed as a he-said-she-said. For example, maybe her clothing, behavior, or drinking is the reason this happened. What did she expect?

    Books that cause these questions to disappear will never leave you. When a story is presented in its entirety, it becomes more relatable. Because these stories hit so close to home, empathy is easier to find. After reading Asking For It, Emma will become more than a character. She could be your neighbor, a girl you knew in grade school, or someone you know through gossip.

    If you knew Emma, would you have distanced yourself or blamed her?

    Emma has a lot in common with all of us. She often makes bad decisions, is preoccupied with boys, and jealous of her closest friends. In many ways, she is an average eighteen-year-old.

    The fact that Emma is portrayed as negative teaches a much-needed lesson. Victims do not need to be well liked to deserve justice. Louise O’Neill’s book is a blessing in disguise. Asking For It is the book society has been lacking.

    This book is meant to be endured rather than passively read. Emma’s story is difficult to get through. Although her story, inspired by real victims, very much deserves your time. The story in Asking For It is not often depicted in fiction and will inspire a relenting visceral rage.

    Readers will realize that Louise O’Neill is genuinely expecting an answer to the question. Was she asking for it? Is anyone asking for it?

    The ending is anything but surprising. Emma could be any of us.
  • Book Review, Books

    Fluent Forever – Book Review

    This is a fascinating, enriching book that teaches the reader how to teach themselves a foreign language. It explains how the brain works and retains information in an interesting, attention-grabbing way. The author uses several funny anecdotes about his journey in language learning, and how it shaped his own life. At first glance, it seems boring or uninteresting, but I was unable to put the book down. 9.5/10

  • Book Review

    Grapes of Wrath: A Book Review

    In the book Grapes of Wrath, published by John Steinbeck in 1939, a family is forced to move out of their homeland and migrate towards plentiful land. The Dust Bowl posed a great threat not only to this family but all farmers and their loved ones. One important underlying message in the book is the importance of the women in a household. Ma Joad in the story is seen throughout the book as a hero and a mentor.

    First off, she is very welcoming, through allowing strangers (including homeless men) to sit down and share a meal with her. On the journey there, she puts on a fire, makes food, and sacrifices her food in order to give to the poor, hungry children around the camp. (SPOILER) She also keeps quiet when crossing the border to California in order to trick the guards into letting them through because the grandmother was sick when in reality she was dead the entire time. Ma was lying next to a corpse all night! While many believe that the man is the real center of the family, Ma Joad is able to break these types of gender roles and assumptions. Not only is she extremely confident, decisive, and friendly, but she also serves as the literal backbone and center of the family, supporting them throughout the entire experience.

    The book even mentioned her as the “citadel of the family”. She nurtures her daughter, Rose of Sharon, through the course of her pregnancy, while also managing to keep her impulsive and aggressive son, Tom Joad, in the right state of mind. Ma Joad is able to represent all women across the world. She is able to depict the idea that a family would not survive without a woman; a woman is just as important as the male in a household. A woman like her must be able to carry not only physical things but emotional things on her shoulder as well. She is an excellent representation of how women are capable of withstanding hardships and gain strength throughout the way!

  • Book Review

    A Book Review of The Invention of Wings

    The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is the type of book which needs to be read. This novel is historical fiction, as it takes place in Charleston, South Carolina, with a timeline which spans from 1800 to the late 1820s. This was a time in South Carolina when the slave population was often higher than its neighboring southern states. The story focuses on the lives of two girls, the first mentioned in the book is Hetty Grimke, known as “Handful” to the slaves she lives with. Handful’s mama is a courageous dreamer, with a knack and love for stitching quilts. She craves freedom for herself, but for her daughter most of all, and she will try whatever she can in order to achieve it. Mama’s courage rubs off on Handful as she grows up, feeling the weight of slavery grow increasingly stronger.

    The second character is an ambitious girl named Sarah Grimke, daughter of the slave-owning Grimkes. Her personal motto is “live audaciously”, and she has a strong moral compass. When she receives Handful, presented as “Hetty”, as a birthday gift, she knows that she has to find a way out of it. Soon she attempts to free Handful using what she has learned about law from her father. But her plans are defeated and her ambition to become a lawyer is trampled. She struggles with her reputation, safety, and hope.

    The two girls begin to grow close but as they grow into their very different lives, they start to drift. However, as fate would have it, their lives become far more intertwined than they would had expected. I love this story because each character is written with incredible depth. It flows with symbolism and is tied together with the theme of womanhood and sisterhood. Slavery and race is a tough topic, and The Invention of Wings makes this part of history far more personal than a history book ever could. That being said, the novel does contains scenes which I would not recommend for younger readers. It is intended for a mature audience, so I would not advise readers any younger than fourteen to read it. In conclusion, This novel is something which every woman can relate to and learn from. The Invention of Wings is a book to inspire.