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Book Clubs Challenged to Act, Not Just Read

September 25, 2009

NEW YORK - Read a book! Win a visit from its authors! A contest open to book clubs in New York and around the nation, sponsored by the humanitarian aid group Mercy Corps, offers the winning club a visit from Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

Minda Seibert of Mercy Corps says the organization wants people to read the new book by Kristof and Wudunn, "Half the Sky," about oppressed women in developing countries, and do something America's best-known book club backer would approve of.

"We're actually asking asking them to take part in changing women's lives. We're asking them to pass the hat, we're asking them to do an event. And I think Oprah (Winfrey) would be very proud of this initiative."

Seibert says Mercy Corps is providing a discussion guide for "Half the Sky" and by next spring, the book club that does the best job of raising awareness and funds for groups that empower women will win a visit by Kristof and WuDunn.

Jennifer Stoll of Lockport, N.Y., is urging local book clubs and other organizations to take up "Half the Sky." She says the book has engaged her in a way she hasn't been engaged in 25 years.

"It's the way it's written, because it's not a story of victimization, and what it's about, primarily. It's about women and girls and their strength to live, confronting insurmountable obstacles, and they do it."

Minda Seibert of Mercy Corps says the book, whose full title is "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide", is proving to have a powerful impact on readers who are moved to action by its stories of oppressed women and those who are fighting back.

"You're just really overtaken by - a bit by sadness and hope - and really the desire to do more. You really think, 'You know what - I don't need that pair of shoes if it means that woman can have a better life.'"

Some 40 book clubs in New York have signed up so far. Over all, 378 book clubs in 39 states and 18 countries have accepted the challenge, which runs until next June.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY