I have read many of the two dozen plus books written by President Carter over the course of his career, many of which I have found to be most enjoyable and easy reads, and all of his writings are moored by a deep-seated belief in the equality of all people.
While his new book continues in the tradition of that belief, the members of St. Timothy’s Books, Brew, and Banter book club unanimously agree that it certainly isn’t an enjoyable read as he grimly tackles head-on the subject of the subjugation of women in cultures throughout the world. Since leaving the White House in 1981, he and his wife Rosalynn founded the Carter Center, dedicated to advancing peace and health worldwide, and they have been firsthand witnesses to the shocking and disturbing human rights abuses inflicted on women. He carefully outlines that women and girls are routinely deprived of education, forced to suffer servitude and child marriage, female genital mutilation, sexual assault and rape, and the undercurrent of discrimination that results in fewer promotions, lower pay and unequal representation in business and politics.
He examines the entrenched links between interpretations of religious texts of Christians, Muslims and Jews that exalt the status of men in the eyes of God, and connects the problems to the world’s excessive use of war and violence. In particular, he reports, that since the birth of the United Nations, American forces have been involved in combat in over twenty three nations, evidence that our previously firm commitment to peace and human rights has been largely abandoned, increasing the suffering of the innocent and defenseless.
All this makes one sad, angry, and horrified. On the other hand, though, he chronicles the Carter Center’s subsequent good works around the globe, ranging from campaigns to eradicate Guinea worm in Ghana to monitoring elections in Egypt. President Carter goes into the specifics of some important work being done, and gives numerous examples of dedicated people throughout the world who have struggled and often righted wrongs.
He concludes by listing twenty-three calls to action and invites us all to participate. It gives one hope that the world can be made better for struggling women and girls. A tough read, but a must read. —Kenneth N. Johnson, Ph.D.