SUGGESTIONS FOR WEEKEND READING
Review: I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
Few of us can imagine receiving death-threats for something as benign as pursuing an education. But for Malala Yousafzai, her life and her studies were both put in jeopardy the day the Taliban invaded her valley in Swat, Pakistan in 2007.
In I Am Malala, Malala shares the story of her family and people’s history, a narrative involving war, violence and poverty, as well as the events of her own life leading up to the Taliban’s personal attack. Born into a culture where celebratory shots are fired whenever a boy is born, but nothing marks the birth of a girl, Malala was blessed to have a father who valued her as highly as any son. Malala’s father, Ziauddin, obtained a college education as a young man and overcame a debilitating stutter to become a renowned public speaker in his community. His greatest ambition was to establish a school for both boys and girls and thereby change the direction of his nation.
During the two years of Taliban rule in Swat, Malala and her father fearlessly spoke out to the media against radical Islam. They protested that nowhere in the Quran are women prohibited from education, nor does the Quran endorse many of their other arbitrary rules and acts of violence. Ironically, it was only after the Pakistani government supposedly rid Swat of all Taliban in 2009 that Malala was named as a target. As her national and international profile rose, so did the threats. In October of 2012, two members of the Taliban stopped Malala’s school bus taking her and fellow female students home after an exam. Malala was shot in the head but miraculously survived after being flown to Birmingham, England.
Since then, she became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17 in 2014. Malala continues to advocate for women’s education around the globe and hopes to return one day to her native Pakistan. As she said when addressing the UN, “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”
This book is a perspective-altering reading experience as it delves into the details of Pakistani daily culture. Malala weaves together a strong foundation of her people’s national and religious history as a basis for her personal story, pulling all the pieces together. She not only clearly depicts what normal life is like in Swat — the beautiful, the unjust, the cuisine, the poverty, familial love, the violence – but she also shows how all of the major political events in Pakistan’s history have led to where things stand now. And of course, she shows how the thread of her story and that of her family’s is knitted into well-being of her nation.
I would recommend this book as a thought-provoking and educational choice for any American, but perhaps one demographic who would not naturally gravitate towards it yet who could benefit most would be middle school to high school-aged girls. At an age where school work is often an unwanted chore, Malala demonstrates that it is an exceptional privilege. She also shows that no age is too young to start making a difference.