Girls Opportunity Alliance Reading Guide

We hope these books will inspire you, teach you something new, and motivate you to take action for girls in your community and around the world.

Beneath the Tamarind Tree: A Story of Courage, Family, and the Lost Schoolgirls of Boko Haram

By Isha Sesay

In the early morning of April 14, 2014, Boko Haram violently burst into the small town of Chibok, Nigeria, and abducted 276 girls from their school dorm rooms. From poor families, these girls were determined to make better lives for themselves, but pursuing an education made them targets, resulting in one of the most high-profile abductions in modern history.

While the Chibok kidnapping made international headlines, and prompted the #BringBackOurGirls movement, many unanswered questions surrounding that fateful night remain about the girls’ experiences in captivity, and where many of them are today. Journalist Isha Sesay follows the journeys of a group of the girls⁠—Priscilla, Saa, and Dorcas—in a tale of sisterhood and survival.

(Summary from HarperCollins)

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

By Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was 15, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.

Instead, Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At 16, she became a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I AM MALALA will make you believe in the power of one person's voice to inspire change in the world.

(Summary from Little, Brown & Company)

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

By Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

With Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn as our guides, we undertake an odyssey through Africa and Asia to meet with extraordinary women struggling there. Among them is a Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery and an Ethiopian woman who suffered devastating injuries in childbirth.

Drawing on the breadth of their combined reporting experience, Kristof and WuDunn depict our world with anger, sadness, clarity and, ultimately, hope. They show how a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad. And they help us see that the key to economic progress lies in unleashing women’s potential.

(Summary from Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time

By Tanya Lee Stone

Girl Rising, a global campaign for girls’ education, created a film that chronicled the stories of nine girls in the developing world, allowing viewers the opportunity to witness how education can break the cycle of poverty.

Now, award-winning author Tanya Lee Stone deftly uses new research to illuminate the dramatic facts behind the film, focusing both on the girls captured on camera and many others. She examines barriers to education in depth—early child marriage and childbearing, slavery, sexual trafficking, gender discrimination, and poverty—and shows how removing these barriers means not only a better life for girls, but safer, healthier, and more prosperous communities.

(Summary from Random House Children's Books)

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

By Katherine Boo

In this winner of the National Book Award, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human through the dramatic story of families striving toward a better life in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport.

With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects people to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, based on years of uncompromising reporting, carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds—and into the hearts of families impossible to forget.

(Summary from Random House Publishing Group)

What Works in Girls' Education: Evidence for the World's Best Investment

By Gene Sperling and Rebecca Winthrop

Hard-headed evidence on why the returns from investing in girls are so high that no nation or family can afford not to educate their girls.

Gene Sperling, author of the seminal 2004 report published by the Council on Foreign Relations, and Rebecca Winthrop, director of the Center for Universal Education, have written this definitive book on the importance of girls’ education. What Works in Girls’ Education is a compelling work for both concerned global citizens, and any academic, expert, nongovernmental organization (NGO) staff member, policymaker, or journalist seeking to dive into the evidence and policies on girls’ education.

(Summary from Brookings Institution Press)

The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change

By Adam Braun

Adam Braun began working summers at hedge funds when he was just sixteen years old, sprinting down the path to a successful Wall Street career. But while traveling he met a young boy begging on the streets of India, who after being asked what he wanted most in the world, simply answered, “A pencil.” This small request led to a staggering series of events that took Braun backpacking through dozens of countries before eventually leaving a prestigious job to found Pencils of Promise, the organization he started with just $25 that has since built more than 250 schools around the world.

(Summary from Scribner)

Reaching for the Sky: Empowering Girls Through Education

By Urvashi Sahni

Since 2003 a privately funded high school in India has provided desperately needed education for girls from impoverished families in Lucknow, the capital and largest city in Uttar Pradesh. Urvashi Sahni, the founder of Prerna Girls School, has written a compelling narrative of how this modest school in northeast India has changed the lives of more than 5,000 girls and their families. Most important, it is through the perspectives of the girls themselves, rather than through a remote academic viewpoint, that Prerna’s success unfolds.

The example of just one relatively small school in one corner of India, the message and the stories it tells will inspire anyone concerned about the necessity of girls’ education.

(Summary from Brookings Institution Press)

Through My Eyes

By Ruby Bridges

In November 1960, all of America watched as a tiny six-year-old black girl, surrounded by federal marshals, walked through a mob of screaming segregationists and into her school. An icon of the civil rights movement, Ruby Bridges chronicles each dramatic step of this pivotal event in history through her own words.

(Summary from Scholastic)

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