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Can Reading a Book Make a Difference?

September 30, 2009

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Members of book clubs typically read a book every month and get together to discuss it. But Mercy Corps wants them to do more than talk - to actually get involved in solving the problems presented in a new book.

"Half the Sky," by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wu-Dunn, cites real-life examples of women in developing countries in order to examine the issues of lack of education and health care, and sex trafficking. It's an unforgettable read, according to Minda Siebert, Mercy Corps senior community relations officer.

"These are first-hand stories of women who are empowered by an organization, their family or themselves to make a change. And it has a powerful message, even though the stories are heart-wrenching and really make you shake your head about what's going on in the world."

Siebert says the international humanitarian aid group will send the authors of "Half the Sky" to visit the book club that achieves the most impressive record of activism. Clubs can sign up on the Mercy Corps Web site,

"We weren't exactly sure how many book clubs would really engage in this project. You know, do they read a book once a month, talk about it and then move on with their lives? Or do they do something else? We are finding that this book is really connecting with people, and they do want to do more."

The contest is part of the group's "One Table" campaign, an appeal to women to support programs that help other women lead their families out of poverty. Released in September, "Half the Sky" is published by Knopf and costs $27.95.

Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MN