The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World by Jacqueline Novogratz (Rodale Books, 2010)
The Blue Sweater is the inspiring story of a woman who left a career in international banking to spend her life on a quest to understand global poverty and find powerful new ways of tackling it. It all started back home in Virginia, with the blue sweater, a gift that quickly became her prized possession — until the day she outgrew it and gave it away to Goodwill. Eleven years later in Africa, she spotted a young boy wearing that very sweater, with her name still on the tag inside. That the sweater had made its trek all the way to Rwanda was ample evidence, she thought, of how we are all connected, how our actions — and inaction — touch people every day across the globe, people we may never know or meet.
From her first stumbling efforts as a young idealist venturing forth in Africa to the creation of the trailblazing organization she runs today, Novogratz tells gripping stories with unforgettable characters — women dancing in a Nairobi slum, unwed mothers starting a bakery, courageous survivors of the Rwandan genocide, entrepreneurs building services for the poor against impossible odds.
She shows, in ways both hilarious and heartbreaking, how traditional charity often fails, but how a new form of philanthropic investing called “patient capital” can help make people self-sufficient and can change millions of lives. More than just an autobiography or a how-to guide to addressing poverty, The Blue Sweater is a call to action that challenges us to grant dignity to the poor and to rethink our engagement with the world.
About the Author: Jacqueline Novogratz is the founder and CEO of Acumen Fund, a non-profit global venture fund that uses entrepreneurial approaches to solve the problems of poverty. Acumen Fund aims to create a world beyond poverty by investing in social enterprises, emerging leaders, and breakthrough ideas. Under Jacqueline’s leadership, Acumen Fund has invested more than $70 million in over 60 companies in South Asia and Africa, all focused on delivering affordable healthcare, water, housing and energy to the poor. These companies have created more than 55,000 jobs, leveraged an additional $200 million, and brought basic services to tens of millions. Prior to Acumen Fund, Jacqueline founded and directed The Philanthropy Workshop and The Next Generation Leadership programs at the Rockefeller Foundation. She also founded Duterimbere, a micro-finance institution in Rwanda. She began her career in international banking with Chase Manhattan Bank. She has been featured in Foreign Policy‘s list of Top 100 Global Thinkers and The Daily Beast‘s 25 Smartest People of the Decade. Jacqueline is a frequent speaker at forums including the Clinton Global Initiative, TED, Aspen Ideas Festival.
Slave: My True Story by Mende Nazer (Public Affairs, 2004)
Mende Nazer lost her childhood at age twelve, when she was sold into slavery. It all began one horrific night in 1993, when Arab raiders swept through her Nuba village, murdering the adults and rounding up thirty-one children, including Mende. Mende was sold to a wealthy Arab family who lived in Sudan’s capital city, Khartoum. So began her dark years of enslavement. Her Arab owners called her “Yebit,” or “black slave.” She called them “master.” She was subjected to appalling physical, sexual, and mental abuse. She slept in a shed and ate the family leftovers like a dog. She had no rights, no freedom, and no life of her own.
Normally, Mende’s story never would have come to light. But seven years after she was seized and sold into slavery, she was sent to work for another master — a diplomat working in the United Kingdom. In London, she managed to make contact with other Sudanese, who took pity on her. In September 2000, she made a dramatic break for freedom.
Slave is a story almost beyond belief. It depicts the strength and dignity of the Nuba tribe. It recounts the savage way in which the Nuba and their ancient culture are being destroyed by a secret modern-day trade in slaves. Most of all, it is a remarkable testimony to one young woman’s unbreakable spirit and tremendous courage.
Scars and Stilettos: The Transformation of an Exotic Dancer by Harmony Dust (Monarch, 2009)
Fear of being abandoned keeps 19-year-old Harmony Dust trapped in an abusive relationship. Tens of thousands of dollars in debt and struggling to get by, someone tells her how much money she can make as an exotic dancer. For the next 3 years, Harmony lives a double life as Monique, a dancer in a strip club.
Scars and Stilettos is Harmony’s stark, honest, and ultimately hopeful story of how God found her in that dark, noisy place and led her back out.
About the Author: Harmony Dust is the founder and Executive Director of Treasures Ministries, a Los Angeles, CA, based nonprofit organization [outreach and support group] for women in the sex industry. As a child, Harmony was sexually abused and raped by multiple people. She ended up in a group home at age 17, where she first encountered social workers and began to dream about one day making a difference in peoples’ lives. She discovered, however, that despite her dreams, the abuse and pain from her past continued to hold her captive. She found herself walking straight from a troubled adolescence into an adulthood entrenched with dysfunctional relationships and a life inside the walls of a strip club working as an exotic dancer. She continued down this path for several years, until committing herself to a journey of healing that radically changed her life.
While completing a Master’s Degree in Social Work at UCLA, Harmony founded Treasures as a dream born from a broken past and a heart healed by the love of God. The mission of Treasures’ is to empower women to make healthy life choices, the foundation of which lies in encouraging them to discover their value and purpose. Harmony is truly passionate about seeing women’s hearts and lives revolutionized by a relationship with God and a revelation of their true worth in Him. She also has a passion for seeing the house of God be a place where hurting and broken people are met with open arms and offered a safe haven for their healing and restoration.
I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali (Broadway, 2010)
“I’m a simple village girl who has always obeyed the orders of my father and brothers. Since forever, I have learned to say yes to everything. Today I have decided to say no.”
Forced by her father to marry a man three times her age, young Nujood Ali was sent away from her parents and beloved sisters and made to live with her husband and his family in an isolated village in rural Yemen. There she suffered daily from physical and emotional abuse by her mother-in-law and nightly at the rough hands of her spouse. Flouting his oath to wait to have sexual relations with Nujood until she was no longer a child, he took her virginity on their wedding night. She was only ten years old.
Unable to endure the pain and distress any longer, Nujood fled — not for home, but to the courthouse of the capital, paying for a taxi ride with a few precious coins of bread money. When a renowned Yemeni lawyer heard about the young victim, she took on Nujood’s case and fought the archaic system in a country where almost half the girls are married while still under the legal age. Since their unprecedented victory in April 2008, Nujood’s courageous defiance of both Yemeni customs and her own family has attracted a storm of international attention. Her story even incited change in Yemen and other Middle Eastern countries, where underage marriage laws are being increasingly enforced and other child brides have been granted divorces.
Nujood now tells her full story for the first time. As she guides us from the magical, fragrant streets of the Old City of Sana’a to the cement-block slums and rural villages of this ancient land, her unflinching look at an injustice suffered by all too many girls around the world is at once shocking, inspiring, and utterly unforgettable.
About the Author: Nujood Ali was honored alongside Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice as one of Glamour magazine’s women of the year.