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Tag Archives | Half the Sky

Monday-ish listicle: if I had a thousand dollars I would…

A thousand dollars.  That’s what Stasha is giving us to play with this week. Having just been told that my life choices were less than fantastic by my eleven-year-old son, I decided to cut him out of this listicle (HA! that’ll show him, right?) and asked the seven-year-old, instead.

Caleb: $1000! wow. Okay. I’d buy – wait, how much does a mansion cost?

Me: More than $1000, sorry.

Caleb, rallying: That’s okay. So number one, I’d buy an apartment like Thiery Henry’s apartment in New York, with three floors. Three attached floors.

(Thiery, for those of you who are not soccer-crazed second-graders, is a European footballer who now plays for the Red Bulls, in New Jersey. He lives in a triplex apartment in the same building where one of Caleb’s best friends in New York lives. The friend, needless to say, does not live in a triplex, or even a duplex. The friend lives in a one-plex, but the friend has, in fact, been in the Henry apartment. Caleb lives in hope that somehow, someday, he too will wrangle an invitation)

Caleb: Number two…all new legos. Especially the Lord of the Rings Legos. I’d go to the Lego Store and just buy everything. Number three…I’d buy some books. And number four, new cleats. I’d buy as many different pairs as I could. And that’s all I can think of.

Me: Just four things? An apartment, legos, books, cleats?

Caleb: Yeah. No, wait, I think I would give money to hobos. Why do they call them hobos, anyway?

Me: I don’t know.

Caleb: Do they come from Hoboken?

Me: Seriously? I have no idea.

A thousand bucks, in Caleb-land, goes a long way.

In my life, a thousand dollars doesn’t go quite so far, I have to say, but usually I could put together a pretty nifty list of Stuff.  My appetite for Stuff, however, has taken a hit since I finished Half the Sky, which talks about oppression and opportunity for women in developing countries. So my thousand-dollar list now looks more like this:

Sponsor kids’ soccer teams in Africa, the way this organization does: Grassroots Soccer

Donate to one of the hospitals that’s working to repair fistulas and other catastrophic injuries incurred during childbirth: Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital

Or maybe I’d donate one of the Abu Dhabi safe houses, where women (usually domestic workers) can go for help, shelter, and advice if their workplace has become unsafe. There aren’t websites available for these safe houses, but they rely primarily on donations and volunteer efforts.

And then because…well…I do have a weakness for shiny things (in another life I was probably a crow or a magpie: oooh! shiny! who cares if it’s tinfoil!), maybe I’d get myself one of these here rings, from BLGK Goldsmiths, in Amsterdam. I’ve never actually been to this shop, but ooh, pretty pretty pretty!


a note about the charities listed here: I’ve not researched these thoroughly, so other than the Half the Sky Foundation, listing these organizations here is not an endorsement or a recommendation, just a thought about what it would be nice to do if a gal had an extra grand burning a hole in her pocket.


Continue Reading · on June 19, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, Kids, Monday Listicle

Reading Late Into the Night: Three Books, Three Genres

The semester ended a few weeks ago, which is when I dig into the books that have been on my “when summer comes” list.  Truth be told, reading right now is a productive procrastination strategy – let’s read instead of doing all that pesky writing you’re supposed to be doing, my brain says.  But I’m turning over a new leaf, if you’ll pardon the book-related pun:  Here in Abu Dhabi, the week begins today – Sunday – and with that, my newly made resolutions will kick into effect. I can’t mention those resolutions out loud for fear of jinxing myself (or sending you into paroxysms of laughter at my unrealistic goals) but suffice it to say, threats have been made, bribes incentivizing structures have been put into place, and pleasure reading will have to wait until I’m visiting the wilds of Indiana later this summer.

Before I read and wrote about the books listed here, I read Lauren Groff’s wild and wonderful novel about a commune, which I reviewed for The National.  You can read that review here, and then do the newspaper a favor, and go all social media on them: twitter, like, recommend, use all those cute buttons at the bottom of the article.  Thanks.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming:

I. Non-fiction

Probably you already read Half the Sky, which Sheryl WuDunn wrote with her husband, Nicholas Kristof, and so you already know that the book puts you on a pendulum that swings from outrage to exhilaration, often in the span of a short paragraph.  The statistics WuDunn and Kristof present seem impossible, incomprehensible: more girls have been killed in the last fifty years than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century; in sub-Saharan Africa, a woman stands a 1-in-22 chance of dying in childbirth; in India there are 2 to 3 million prostitutes (many of whom are young girls and/or women who are little more than slaves)…the list of horrors is endless.

If the book were just a statistical compilation of the ways in which women are systematically beaten down, however, it would not be so powerful. What WuDunn and Kristof bring equally alive can only be called the triumph of the human spirit: women who have crawled, begged, fought, and screamed their way into better situations – women who have, basically, refused to die.  There are women who escape from sexual slavery to start safe houses for other runaways; women who use micro-loans to start tiny businesses that provide enough income that a daughter can go to school; a woman in the US who wrote a letter asking people to donate a dollar to the US Committee for UNFPA, after Bush II cut the funding and eventually raised more than 4 million dollars….The list of triumphs also goes on and on – it’s easy to say that a book is “inspiring,” but there are very few books I’ve read where I actually got chills as I read about what these people have accomplished for themselves and for others.

Half the Sky isn’t all rosy-eyed about NGOs and governmental intervention; WuDunn and Kristof offer a candid assessment of well-intentioned Samaritans. The book offers pragmatic advice – lists, websites, addresses – for anyone who wants to get involved on the ground or for anyone who wants to make donations to worthy causes. You owe it to yourself to spend some time with the women in these pages. Their stories need to be heard.

II. Fiction: dysfunctional families, and a smattering of witches

The Lunatic Parlor brought to mind a joke that I heard from a comedian a long time ago – it’s a perfect joke and for me separates the wheat from the chaff: if you laugh at this joke, we’re probably going to be friends. If you look at me with a slightly furrowed brow and a “wha…?” on your face, then it’s going to take us a while to click.  So the joke goes like this: “I just started therapy…” long sigh, head shake, pursed lips.  “…because I come from a family.”

Get it? Get it?

Eggzackly. Everyone’s family has something, but the family in this novel has a whole lotta something: two alcoholic parents, termites (a lot of termites), unwanted pregnancy, prescription drugs, OCD, really bad parenting, inappropriate boyfriends, Elvis impersonators, and suicide. And it’s funny, funny, funny. The kind of funny that bubbles up from those dark moments when it’s either laugh or crawl into a hole and block up the exits. Continue Reading →

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Continue Reading · on June 10, 2012 in Books

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