Saturday, December 31, 2011


This book has changed my life. I never went anywhere without it while I was reading it. There has never been a non-fiction book that I have read that I did not want it to end! I inhaled every single word of it, and was disturbed, moved, inspired, and most importantly driven TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT MATERNAL HEALTH AND THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN WORLDWIDE.

Nicholas and Sheryl paint vivid portraits of many women throughout the world, and some of whom I will never forget.  But perhaps the one that moved me most, and had me sobbing, was the story of the 14 year old girl, named Mahabouba, who was a second wife and was in labour with her first baby for over 7 days.  On the seventh day she delivered her dead baby only to realize that she was uncontrollably leaking urine  and feces, and could no longer walk due to the nerve damage in her legs.  The leaking of her bodily wastes was caused by a fistula, an all too common traumatic birth injury that currently affects more than TWO MILLION WOMEN in developing nations.

Disgusted by her foul odor, and convinced she had been cursed, the villagers and her family forced her to live in a hut outside the village, but not before taking the door off so that the hyenas could come and attack her in the night.  After darkness the hyenas came.  Mahabouba could not move her legs so she grabbed a nearby stick and waved it at the hyenas and yelled as they circled her all night;  all night long she fended them off.

The next morning the only hope that Mahabouba had was to crawl to find help.   She had heard of a Western Missionary close by, and with a fierce determination to live, Mahabouba began pulling her self along the ground by her arms, her useless legs dragging behind her.  It took her an entire day to arrive at the compound, and she was already half dead.....

Can you even imagine?  I can't.  I CANNOT.  And it is stories like this that have turned my rage into action.  I am now an advocate for women's rights in a way I never was before.  I have recently became a Circle Of Friends Volunteer Ambassador for The Fistula Foundation, and have also started our only local Chapter of Dining for Women, where we meet once a month and donate our dining out dollars we would have spent at a restaurant to causes that focus on women and children all over the world.  I am inhaling everything I can on the topic of women and maternal health, and have recently enrolled in a University course (which I had enrolled in about 6 years ago, only to cancel my registration due to me feeling that I didn't have the time... seriously.) in International Community Development.

I urge every single person reading this to pick up your copy today and read it. Then tell everyone you know about it. I think this should be required reading in high schools, and I believe this could be one of the most important books of our generation on the topic of women's rights.

If you live in the LA area, there is a great Half the Sky exhibit going on at the Skirball Cultural Centre until March 2012.

Thank you, to Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn for shedding light on the issues of women in developing countries, and yes even women right here at home.

If I could give it more than 5 stars I would.

For more information please visit Half the Sky website. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011


The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
Kindle version

This is one of those books that I would have never heard of had it not been for our municipality coming up with a really cool campaign called - One Book One Calgary.  The premise was "What would happen if an entire city read the same book?"  The program was launched last month and there were cool events for people of all ages throughout the city.  They had a launch with a fancy schmancy night with appies, and the author doing a talk, and then a performance by a local professional cellist.  They had work shops with the author for teens, and book club discussions at various libraries across.. you get the idea.

So my family book club (which consists of my Mom, my two sisters, and two of my nieces) decided to all read it.  Even though we did not make it to any of the events I have to say I am SO GLAD I picked it up!

Galloway's book takes place during the Bosnian conflict in the early 90's, when Sarajevo was under siege by rebel forces.  It follows the story of three people as they try to cope with what is happening in their beautiful city.

There is ARROW, she is a sniper who deeply loathes the men in the hills, and struggles with who she has become as a human being....

And DRAGAN, a 65 year old husband and father whose wife and son fled to Italy.  In the hopes that he can be reunited with them, he continues to slog through the day to day nightmare of survival in a war zone.

KENAN is the one I can most relate to.  He is a young father with three children and a doting wife.  It is his part of the story that most resonates with me in the shocking reality of... what would it REALLY BE LIKE if suddenly I woke up to find my city completely overrun by rebels and that we have no electricity or water?  WHAT WOULD WE DO?  His part of the story is told in incredible detail that makes you feel his jubilation when the light bulb flares to life for a moment while he is shaving, or the horror as he is witness to the carnage that he encounters while simply getting water.

And then there is the CELLIST... he is based on a real person, Vedran Smailovic,  who played in ruined buildings during the siege. He specifically played Albinoni Adagio in G, which happens to be a real rip-your-hear-out kind of piece... just beautiful.
(Photo is of Smailovic playing during the war)

This story takes us into modern warfare... takes us into the lives of three people who love their city and yearn for the return to normal life... the fear that normal will never be... and within its pages it shows us how as human beings we all are heroes and cowards, and until we walk in the shoes of war, we will never know which of these we are.

RATING:  5/5