Half the Sky

Earlier this year, I wrote about my return to audiobooks, listening to them for the 20-30 minutes I usually spend in my car each driving between here and there. It certainly makes time spent in the car feel like time well spent, though it can be exhausting. A few months ago, I arrived at my favorite coffee shop at the start of the day already worn and haggard from listening to descriptions of repeated shark attacks on the open sea in Unbroken.

Of the 10 or so audiobooks I’ve worked through this year, none has left me more haggard than Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nick Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn. I am not a medical doctor for a reason; I start to go fetal at the briefest of stories about physical inflictions. The descriptions, especially in the first half of the book, of mistreatment of women in cultures around the world was hard to listen to. I could only imagine the women described in the stories as someone’s daughter, and my primal impulse was to go home, gather my own two daughters beside me and not leave the house. Ever.

It wasn’t entirely crippling, but also left me with some helpful perspective on each day. Whatever passage of Scripture I was to study, project proposal I needed to write, or website function I needed to develop was framed once again in a larger narrative of the struggle and brokenness of this world. I was left with the tension of finding my daily actions settled somewhere between trivial tasks and critical acts of redemptive work in a fractured present.

As the subtitle suggests, there was hope in the book, found especially in the second half. The book describes the strength of women, and womanhood, rising out of oppressive regimes to offer a voice for those still silenced, and change for those still to come. In that way, it was wisely written like a good narrative showing the obstacles of the central characters, and their ability to rise through it and overcome it. However, this is no good piece of fiction but a reality in our world, and one to be remembered and challenged for those who engage in redemptive work.

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