The 2013-14 Campus Community Book Project is more than words on paper. The book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, is also a movement.
The 2009 book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn is “a passionate call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world,” publisher Random House declared.
The husband-and-wife authors have three Pulitzer Prizes between them for their work at The New York Times. The Campus Community Book Project always includes an author’s address — and Kristof will do the honor on Jan. 13, 2014, according to Mikael Villalobos, book project chair for the Office of Campus Community Relations.
Half the Sky is Campus Community Book Project No. 12. The series began in 2002, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as a way to inspire people to look at the world in different ways, to acknowledge and consider different perspectives, and to engage in respectful discussion.
The book selection process each year begins with a general theme, as chosen by the Campus Council on Community and Diversity. For 2013-14, the council picked the theme of gender issues-gender equity.
In a 2009 New York Times Magazine essay, excerpted from their book, Kristof and WuDunn declared “the brutality inflicted on so many women and girls around the globe: sex trafficking, acid attacks, bride burnings and mass rape” as the paramount moral challenge of the 21st century (after totalitarianism in the 20th and slavery in the 19th).
“Yet if the injustices that women in poor countries suffer are of paramount importance, in an economic and geopolitical sense the opportunity they represent is even greater. ‘Women hold up half the sky,’ in the words of a Chinese saying, yet that’s mostly an aspiration: In a large slice of the world, girls are uneducated and women marginalized, and it’s not an accident that those same countries are disproportionately mired in poverty and riven by fundamentalism and chaos.
“There’s a growing recognition among everyone from the World Bank to the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to aid organizations like CARE that focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism. That’s why foreign aid is increasingly directed to women. The world is awakening to a powerful truth: Women and girls aren’t the problem; they’re the solution.”
Gary Sue Goodman, a lecturer in the University Writing Program who integrates each year’s book project into her curriculum, said Half the Sky’s international development perspective makes the book particularly relevant for the UC Davis campus, where the new general education requirements seek to cultivate civic and international literacies.
“I do expect that this book will facilitate integration into courses more than some book project books have,” said Goodman, a former book project coordinator. “I expect to assign it in advanced writing and journalism courses.”
Other faculty members will no doubt consider adding it to their syllabi as well, and the book could end up being a part of freshman seminars in the fall. In addition, Villalobos will convene a committee in late spring to round out the book project program with lectures and discussions and other events.
‘Anger, sadness, clarity … hope’
In Half the Sky, according to Random House, Kristof and WuDunn take the reader on “an odyssey through Africa and Asia to meet the extraordinary women struggling there, among them a Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery and an Ethiopian woman who suffered devastating injuries in childbirth.
“Drawing on the breadth of their combined reporting experience, Kristof and WuDunn depict our world with anger, sadness, clarity, and, ultimately, hope.”
That hope lives on today in the Half the Sky Movement, self-described as “cutting across platforms to ignite the change needed to put an end to the oppression of women and girls worldwide, the defining issue of our time.”
The movement includes a PBS documentary that debuted last year, educational tools and even a Facebook game. “The goal is to draw millions of Facebook players globally and to transform their digital quest of having to keep women and girls safe into real-world actions and micro-donations, building the capacity of the Half the Sky Movement’s nongovernmental organization network and partners.”
In 1990, Kristof and WuDunn became the first married couple to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism, honored “for knowledgeable reporting from China on the mass movement for democracy and its subsequent suppression.” Kristof still works for The Times, as a columnist; he won the 2006 Pulitzer for commentary “for his graphic, deeply reported columns that, at personal risk, focused attention on genocide in Darfur and that gave voice to the voiceless in other parts of the world.”
Through their stories in Half the Sky, according to Random House, Kristof and Wu Dunn “help us see that the key to economic progress lies in unleashing women’s potential. They make clear how so many people have helped to do just that, and how we can each do our part.”
“Countries such as China have prospered precisely because they emancipated women and brought them into the formal economy. Unleashing that process globally is not only the right thing to do; it’s also the best strategy for fighting poverty.”
UC Davis Stores announced a discounted price of $11.95 for Half the Sky in paperback (list price $15.95).