I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb published in 2013.
“I am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons. I am Malala will make you believe in the power of one person’s voice to inspire change in the world.”
First of all, I’d like to say, if you have never heard of Malala Yousafzai, please let me know the address of the rock that you live under.
I was so excited to hear Malala’s words, and with the very first sentence, she did not disappoint. The novel opens up with a spine-chilling statement, “I come from a country that was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday.” This not only sets the tone for the prologue but the entire book. The way that she decided to tell her story was incredibly personal, which I enjoyed. There were moments that I felt as if she was sitting next to me, just conversing about her life. She writes like someone who would be your witty classmate that sits in the second row of your philosophy class (rather specific but it just seems right). Despite having sort of a grim ending (spoiler alert), I found myself smiling and even laughing out loud at some moments, such as when she described her and her friends obsessing over Twilight novels and Bollywood films. Yet this novel does a great job of warming your heart and then immediately drag you back down to the grim reality that is life, more specifically, life among the Taliban. I don’t cry easily when it comes to books, but when Malala was separated after she was shot, I did tear up a bit.
As a young, privileged Caucasian girl living in Canada, I have no reason to relate to Malala or her story, but she tells her story in such an eloquent, detailed way that I couldn’t help but imagine myself in her situation.
While most people assume most of her story would revolve around her being shot and recovery, the majority of the novel focuses on her life leading up to the shooting, including her struggling with natural disasters in Pakistan and the takeover of the Taliban in her Valley. I appreciated this since it showed she is more than just the girl who got shot by the Taliban, yet I can understand why some would consider this “dull.” But also as a reader who is close to her in age, it made the story even more relatable than I mentioned above.
Another feature I found interesting about this book is the surprisingly large role of her father. I believe her father could have a novel of his own because from what I’ve heard about him from Malala, I want more. Every word that came out of his mouth was methodically thought out and carefully dictated with deep emotional meaning. One of my favourite things he uttered was a response to his daughter asking why the Taliban didn’t want girls to go to school—“They are afraid of the pen, Malala.” Some people may not appreciate how often her father is mentioned since they picked up this book to read about Malala, yet I recognize it as a crucial part of her story. Much like fictional characters, there was a lot of development for Malala as a young woman condensed within 313 pages. From questioning her father why some people didn’t want girls going to school to performing influential interviews and speeches about girls education. So one of the reasons she became a person of protest and pride is due to her father.
One of my favourite ongoing aspect of her story was the presence of Pashtun culture which she is rightly proud of. The overwhelming amount of hospitality that they possess is both admirable and frightening. I could never imagine opening my home to anyone at any time for an unknown amount of time, but this seemed common and encouraged in her community. I loved learning about the history of her Swat Valley and all of Pakistan in general, along with the past and current state of their government. I understand reading articles and scholarly journals about modern Pakistan policies or the cruelty of the Taliban can be sometimes dry, so if you want to inform yourself in an interesting way, go pick up Malala’s memoir.
I do wish that she would have delved deeper into her future beyond this book. It ended in a sort of stagnant present in which the reader didn’t know what was next for Malala. It was said that she wanted to go back to Pakistan, but what she was planning on doing while in Britain remains a mystery. Overall, it was a pleasure to immerse myself in her life and I would recommend this as a good read for any young person interesting in getting angry over injustice and enlightened through hope and cultural pride.
If you wish to learn more about Malala or donate to her education fund, click here.