I hadn’t heard about Malala Yousafzai until I saw her interview with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show just after her book came out. I’ve put the interview below because it still brings a tear to my eye. What a wonderful and powerful woman. She accomplished things before her 16th birthday that many will never accomplish in their lives. I’ve put the video below so you can see what I mean.
I Am Malala: The story of the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
Summary from Goodreads:
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 fifteen, 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 sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
I’m glad Malala was able to write her story in her own words. I’m sure that after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, there were a lot of people who wanted to write the story for her. Christina Lamb did a great job of helping Malala’s voice come out and deliver a comprehensive memoir. Malala gives us stories of her friends and family that make this book deeply personal. She’s used stories from her doctors and family to illustrate her recovery and the political history that’s presented in the story is well researched and explained simply. You don’t need a Ph.D. to understand what’s gone wrong in Swat Valley, you only need it to be explained to you by someone like Malala who lived through it. I was very touched by Malala’s love of education.
Malala had very fair depictions of the leaders, Talibs, and people of her life. She was very kind when speaking about her teachers and doctors and I felt the way she described the army and Taliban were very fair. She didn’t say they were devils (thought it was implied sometimes) but explained their influence and why their ideas were so off base with Islam. I was amazed when reading the authors note at the end how many famous politicians and celebrities had helped her along the way and how grounded she still is.
Malala’s father is an incredible man. He saw a lot of himself in his daughter and empowered her to be as active and outspoken as he was. His encouragement is the single thing that made her as strong as she is, I have no doubt. In the face of threats, he still spoke out and encouraged his daughter to join him. He loved and respected his daughter when his culture told him sons were the ones to encourage and be proud of.
I’m glad to say that it was hard to relate to Malala’s story. I’m glad that my freedoms and access to education have not been challenged the way the girls of Swat have had theirs challenged. I think a lot of the Western fascination with her story comes from this. It’s hard to imagine being denied the right to go to school. Children in the United States don’t want to go to school because they have to. My teacher husband would definitely agree with me there. But what if that requirement was no longer a right of the American children? Would someone speak up the way Malala has? I honestly don’t know, but I would hope so.
The stories Malala told about her friends at school helped me connect with her the most. She has a best friend that she fights with and reconciles with often, she has to study hard to get good grades and she’s competitive with her friends and herself. Her school life of eating with friends and dreading exams was the most relatable. Not being able to go off the premises to buy snacks and having teachers leave to work with the Taliban were not.
Some of the political parts were hard to follow. I don’t know my Pakistani history or politics very well and the names of several leaders were brought up once or twice and then dropped or not mentioned again for fifty pages, which made it hard to identify them. This is a small complaint of a very well written book.
There is no age at which your voice suddenly becomes meaningful. If you have something to say, it’s always worth hearing. Malala started to speak out when she was very young and people listened. They didn’t discredit her because she was 13. Children have the power to shape the future if they will only speak out. I think Malala is an incredible example of how strong the voice of a child can be.
Writer’s Takeaway: Because of the ghosting writing of Christina Lamb, it’s hard to say what comes from Malala’s mouth and what was changed by Lamb. I think the juxtaposition of Pakistani politics and friend politics at school was great. There might be a fight between Malala and Moniba, but it will always be resolved. The Pakistani politics don’t always end the same way. If we loved all of those around us like friends, would things resolve faster? Malala’s answer for peace in the Middle East is simple yet huge: education for every boy and girl. If only it were that easy.
I really enjoyed this book and the message it carried. Four out of Five stars.
Until next time, write on.
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