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 nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize. This 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. This story will make you believe in the power of one person's voice to inspire change in the world. -- Publisher's description.
Reading this, I am deeply moved by Malala's idealism, her bravery, and her humility, and I am filled with great respect for both her and her father. I've also learned a great deal about Pakistan, its history, and its troubles -- things I probably should have known, but didn't. I also have a new perspective on the Taliban. The Taliban... is awful. I mean, I knew that, we all know that, but to have this kind of intimate account of what it is like to have to live, day by day, in the shadow of the Taliban really brings it home in a way that no amount of sitting on my comfortable American couch watching the news could possibly manage.
Definitely recommended for, well, anyone who cares about living in a world where 15-year-old girls can attend school without being shot in the face.
Reviewed by Lois Rubin Gross
It is seldom that I devote an entire blog to one book, but this is an important book that tells the story of a very important young woman. In its own way, it is a book that bears comparison to The Diary of a Young Girl, written seventy years ago by another teenager in harrowing circumstances. The two young women, living decades apart, share a similar commitment to making a positive difference in the world and a similar belief that, despite their oppressors, there is an underlying goodness in mankind. It is amazing to find this streak of optimism in both books because both young women saw the very worst that humanity produces aimed at them through an accident of religious identity or gender.
Malala’s book is ghost-written by British journalist, Christine Lamb, who treads a very delicate path between achieving a smooth delivery of information while maintaining Malala’s true voice. The story is skillfully treated. Malala’s unique story actually begins with her birth. In a country that prizes sons above daughter, Malala’s father, Ziuddian Yousafzai, proclaims that he is happy to have a daughter and will see her educated just as he would a son. Ziuddian, who is a teacher by profession, opens a school in Mingora, Pakistan, and from the age of two, Malala is part of the school, sitting on teacher’s laps and learning all that she is able.
Ziuddian cultivates in all three of his children, but especially in Malala, a spirit of academic competitiveness that sees her perennially coming out at the top of her classes and winning public speaking contests. It is interesting that from such an early age, Malala is encouraged to express herself in ways that her illiterate, but strong, mother could not imagine. Whenever there is an opportunity, Malala learns to speak passionately about subjects as diverse as honor and poetry. While Pashtun tradition says that girls cannot speak their own words but must speak words written by their fathers or brothers, Malala finds that she must tell her own tale to deliver her speeches with sincerity and meaning.
Through all the challenges of her life -- a war-torn country, displacement from her home, attacks on the school by the Taliban – Malala is prescient that someday she will come face to face with the enemies of progress. She even mentally prepares the speech she will deliver if she is ever confronted by a Taliban. She plans to tell her attacker that all she wants is for all children to be educated.
Unfortunately, in October, 2012, the Taliban comes onto the school bus that she is riding and asks, “who is Malala?” then shoots her in the face. The rest of the story was widely reported in the media, but Lamb and Malala go through it, step by terrifying step. Malala, who is deeply religios, might say that Allah was protecting her on so many levels. By coincidence, a British doctor, Fiona Robinson, who specializes in pediatric intensive care was in Pakistan when the attack happened. She and Pakistani military doctors treated Malala’s injuries when she was triaged. The importance of the patient struck the Dr. Robinson when she said, “My God, I am treating Pakistan’s Mother Theresa.”
Malala was air lifted on a Saudi hospital jet to Birmingham England, on her own. She awoke, days later, in a strange land without her family and with grievous injuries to her head and left side. Malala takes us through the process of recovery (as she says, she now knows a great deal about medical procedures). She also continues through her quick rise to worldwide fame as a spokesperson for the rights of all children, but especially young girls, to have an education.
In unguarded moments, when she is discussing fights with her best friend or sibling rivalry with her brothers, Malala sounds like any child and that is when the book truly resonates with memories of Anne Frank. But there is something so mature and focused about this young woman as she talks about her mission in life, to see education come to all children.
The thought that came to me, as I read the book, was that in our country so many children take the gift of education for granted. Schools that fail, schools that have high drop-out rates, schools that “teach to the test’ so that students do not learn to think as much as regurgitate, are a sad, sad statement when measured against Malala’s dedication and determination.
We can question if Malala’s father put her in an unnaturally dangerous situation by promoting his cause for education through his young daughter, but this is clearly now Malala’s cause as well. Read this book because , G-d or Allah willing, this child is a future leader of the world and one that all our children should strive to emulate.
This book should be required reading by all schools. This inspirational story tells of the happiness of a young girl growing up in her beloved Swat, and the determination of a young woman who only wanted what so many take for granted-an education. Malala could be a young girl playing on the roof with her brothers and friends, a young woman speaking out against the Taliban, and a determined young lady who does not lose her determination after a gunshot wound to her head. This book will make everyone-man, woman, girl, boy want to stand up and shout I AM MALALA!
Malala longs for the Pakistan of her youth. Did it ever really exist. Children often have an idealized version of the past. She remembers the good times from her youth, but you can never get back what you had as a child.
I hope that she gets to return to her homeland and her classroom (maybe as a teacher) and that her country will be someday be worthy of their finest citizen.
I didn’t think that there would be that much of interest in a book about someone so young, written by someone so young, yet I was blown away by her ability to put her life and experiences into words. Malala, a devout Muslim who loves her religion, has written not only an autobiography of her life, but also a brief history of her country with special emphasis on the Pashtun people, their customs and their culture. Malala and her family are members of a Pashtun Tribe, as are most people who live in the Swat Valley she so loves. Although she was just a teen when an attempt on her life was made, an attempt which almost succeeded, her courage and bravery continued to shine in the years afterward. She endured pain, disabilities and surgeries but seemed always to have a positive attitude buoyed up by her own prayers and the prayers of others. The Taliban and their barbaric methods did not silence her; actually, their brutality only furthered her reputation of heroism. She rose to fight another day. Although she now lives in Birmingham, England, with all of life’s modern conveniences that are in stark contrast to her home in Pakistan, she still yearns to return to the Swat Valley with its warmth, basic life and beauty that she so adores. She yearns to return to her home, her room, her teachers, her friends, and her school, the school that was founded by her father. She still continues her struggle for women’s rights in the Islamic world. She is a fan of President Obama and John Kerry because of their public, personal stand on civil rights. She appears not to be a great fan of former President Bush or of other leaders who have negatively influenced her country to advance the cause of their own. In that light, in the present day, her opinion of President Obama may have changed, as well, but there is no mention of that in the book.
The attempt on her life was meant to silence her voice, a voice that spoke out for more freedom and civil rights for the women of Pakistan, largely the right to have an education and the limiting of the more severe Sharia Laws. The Taliban banned education for women. In school, most of Malala’s friends wanted to be doctors; it was not easy for a girl to be anything but a teacher or a doctor in her country. Malala wanted to be in politics. She wanted to be a spokesperson to enable change and additional freedoms for girls and women. The methods the Taliban used to accomplish all of their ancient goals and enforce Sharia Law, were barbaric and savage. The people in Swat Valley were frightened, but not Malala. She believed that one person had the power to make a difference, to change things, and if it was her duty to do this, than so be it; she would face the danger.
Malala was 14 when her nightmare began. In 2012, she was shot on her way to exams. A top student, she was hoping to, once again, place first. However, after being shot, she remembers little about what happened except for her dreams which were inaccurate. She knows that the bus suddenly stopped and someone approached wanting to know who Malala was. Although no one spoke, their eyes gave her away. She was the only child on the bus with a face that was not covered. A spray of bullets also injured two of her friends, but she received a bullet to the head which was a grave injury threatening her life. It is miraculous that she recovered. With the help of modern medicine and technology, she has been restored almost fully.
This book illustrates the corruption that exists in Pakistan and uncovered the fear that most of the residents lived with because of the Taliban threats. It reveals the worst attributes of the Taliban and other radical Islamists. It also exposes the worst traits of the Pashtun people, as well as shining a light on their better attributes. The guilt she places on outside countries and international intervention into the affairs of Pakistan permeate many threads of the narrative. A reasonably backward part of the world was thrust into the spotlight by America’s war and suffered the consequences of misplaced bombs, drone attacks and governments that changed with the wind. It seems that each successive government promised reforms which were short lived or which became corrupt when the leaders reneged on their promises and became like their predecessors, whom they had overthrown. The coalition forces often misjudged or misunderstood the traumatic effect of their involvement in Pakistani affairs. They supported dictators whom the people distrusted. It was their chaotic affect on the country which helped usher in Sharia laws and the viloence of the Taliban, the very same Taliban they were trying to defeat.
Malala reads the prologue of the book herself, and she reads it in a very clear and confident manner. She is obviously extremely intelligent and mature beyond her years. She believes in non violence and also that “one person, one book, one pen”, can influence society and bring positive change. However, she respects Islamic customs and enjoys the prayers. Her effort to bring about change takes courage which she has proven is a major part of her character. Although her father was a devout Muslim, he was well educated and he never stood in her way. They actually worked together when he allowed her to join his crusade, giving many speeches, because he, too, believed that women should be entitled to education. He did not require his womenfolk to shroud themselves with burkas, although they did wear head coverings. Both father and mother supported the effort to advance the cause of equal rights.
It is very easy to listen to, and connect to, her book and its message which is universal when it comes to civil rights. Archie Panjabi does an excellent job disseminating the message of the book. Her tone is melodious and her manner warm. She reads to inform rather than to condemn or offer excessive praise and the message comes through loud and clear. She has captured the voice of Malala perfectly.
Malala's father, the founder of the girls' school that Malala attended, undoubtedly contributed to this book. He must be the source for many of the personal details and the conversations quoted in the book. Malala couldn't have known these things unless her father had shared them with her. Journalist Christina Lamb is credited for her contributions to the book. It's hard to discern how far those contributions extend. In any case, the voice is that of an intelligent teenager.
Malala's story added depth to my perception of Pakistan and the world events that have played out in that part of the world over the last decade. It's one thing to read a news story about a Taliban stronghold in an area between Afghanistan and Pakistan that doesn't have a strong allegiance to either nation. Malala's description of the Swat Valley and her explanation of the social structure and mores gave me a new perspective on the events of the last ten years.
Malala seems destined for politics. She already has more international influence than many elected officials. I hope she has a long and successful career and that the first attempt on her life will also be the last.
I call this an autobiography because it covers her entire life, so far, and even the history of her family and her parent's families. It covers the history of her Swat village also, going back centuries.
Malala seems to have written this book with only very minor help of her co-editor, Christina Lamb, as her personality, fears, and wishes come through clearly.
It seems astonishing for her parents to back her in following her dreams due to the danger those wishes entail in her situation. But then her dad seems very brave to have so persistently pushed for better education and community needs in the face of danger to the family. It is easy to see that Malala's dad is her mentor.
In the last part of the book Malala restates her long term goals and one poignant wish. She wants to be remembered as the girl who fought for girls education rather than the girl shot by the Taliban. This, and many other statements throughout the book show that Malala is both on the moral high ground and much more mature than her age would indicate.
Within the book Malala tells of how she became a good speaker and learned to speak three languages. It is no surprise she could write well also.
With the approach of the Christmas season in the U.S, this is a good time to read a remarkable nonfiction of a person fighting for better the lives of others, especially kids, even in spite of the danger involved for her in doing so.
If I were writing science fiction, I would write of Malala as the first Prime Minister of a United Earth, head of a government where even the least of us is valued and nurtured towards having a fulfilling life.
The book had a ghost writer, and I wondered how much was Malala and how much the ghost. Recalling her UN speech and the various interviews, I can guess that the book is 90% Malala. She is one sharp cookie, and will come into a Nobel one day soon, I'm sure! Mark my words.
Malala's story really made me think about all the opportunities I have that I take for granted. As a woman living in America I have so much freedom and so many opportunities. Malala wasn't as fortunate as me and it was absolutely eye-opening reading her book. Reading this allowed me to see what it was like for girls like Malala and to put myself in their shoes.
I would highly recommend that all woman and girls read this book. I would also suggest that this become required reading for high school students.
Years ago, when I heard of the Taliban destroying Buddhas and other religious icons, I was appalled that no nation stepped in to stop what looked like an emerging terrorist group. As the years passed, it was so, and they had laid a strong foothold in Pakistan. Because Malala was outspoken and unafraid, she was picked out to be silenced. The Taliban, who had taken over control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, decided to silence her with guns. On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, she paid the ultimate price for her right to education; she was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding home from
school. Eventually, for treatment to save her life, she was flown to England for surgeries and recovery. The entire family was uprooted and are now residing in England, but Malala hopes one day to return to her home country to help others to get their education. One person, one voice but heard around the world to a testimony of how boys are prized but girls are hidden, or even killed, for their beliefs. Change in the world is possible and I heartily recommend this book for those who think they can do nothing. This brave 15 ear old story will inspire you, or at least allow you to see another side of what others endure, that we in America take for granted.
The book has many themes that I think could be rich fodder for you, including:
A window into another culture -- rich details about what it is like to live in rural Pakistan, what it is like to be poor in the third world country, and what it is like for a girl to live in a Muslim family. Lots of anecdotes about regular life in Pakistan. We get to see how life in Pakistan changed as the Taliban grew stronger and stronger. We get to see what it is like for a child to go from living in a relatively peaceful country to one in the middle of a terrorist uprising.
A window into Islam -- interestingly, Malala is a devout Muslim who loves her god and her religion. She talks a lot about how the Taliban has distorted the teachings of the Koran. I think it might be interesting for kids to read a positive view of this religion -- one that contrasts with the violent images we get here.
Love of education -- What drives Malala and her father is their belief that education is a fundamental and necessary right for all girls and boys. I think kids in this country take for granted that they get to go to school and learn things -- but in this book they read about a girl who had to fight for that right -- and almost died for it.
Inspirational message -- As I said, it's very inspiring to read about a girl who works to change her world. She is not a rich girl with lots of advantages. She is quite poor and ordinary -- and yet she becomes an international figure through her fight for education for girls.
The only problem with the book is that the first few chapters have a lot of dry, pedantic information about the history of Pakistan and Malala's family. Even I had trouble getting through them! I think they might stop a kid from getting into the better and more entertaining parts of the book. They are not necessary for the story -- so it's possible they could be skipped. I don't know -- I leave this issue to you teachers!
My main quibble with the first part is that it's hard to know whose voice is speaking, Malala's or Christina Lamb's, the co-author. It's written in a stilted style that seems to be from someone whose first language isn't English. To be fair, Malala's first language was Pashtun, not English, but this part of the book doesn't really seem to be in her voice at all.
I'll be honest, as I read I kept wondering when it would get more interesting. There's so much background, I couldn't really get the feel for who Malala had been before her shooting. I didn't hear her voice. There were times when I wondered if I would recommend this book to anyone I know.
But the day of the shooting came and this book took off like a racehorse. Even though it's clear that many of things written in the last part of the book are what could only have been related to Malala after she began healing.
In this part, her voice rises. I began to feel Malala come through the pages telling her story of how her life changed after being shot and transferred to Birmingham, England. The last line of the book is, "I am Malala. My world has changed but I have not."
A warning, there are somewhat graphic descriptions of punishments meted out by the Taliban. There are pictures, but those aren't as grim. I remain truly shocked at the inhumanity of some against others who want something different, something better.
Even though I'm only giving I Am Malala 3.5 stars, I do recommend it for anyone wanting to know about this miraculous young woman and the world she lived in.
The amazing Malala Yousafzai was plunged into history on Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when, at the age of fifteen, she was shot in the head for standing up for the rights of girls to have an education. In fact she had been campaigning alongside her father since she was eleven. As a girl from the Swat valley area of Pakistan, she fell foul of the rising Taliban, who banned girls from going to school and required they dress in full purda.
Her father had been an avid supporter of schools for both boys and girls and he ran his own school in their home town; frequently giving away free places to needy families even though he was barely making ends meet.
This version of Malala's life has been penned by the well known journalist, Christina Lamb, who spent many weeks with Malala after she was flown to Birmingham, UK for medical treatment following the attack. It provides quite a lot of background history of the area and the circumstances that allowed the Taliban to insidiously gain a foothold there. We are also introduced to Malala and her family, and get to understand what drove them, particularly Malala and her father to stand up for what they believed.
Malala has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her ongoing fight for education for all. If she gets it, it will most certainly be well deserved.