Friday, October 25, 2013

I Am Malala

Title:  I Am Malala
Author:  Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb
Publication Information:  Little, Brown and Company; Hachette Book Group. 2013. 327 pages.

Book Source:  I read this book because I want to read and learn from Malala's story.

Favorite Quote:  "On the shelves of our living room are awards from around the world - America, India, France, Spain, Italy, and Austria, and many other places. I've even been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, the youngest person ever. When I received prizes for my work at school I was happy, as I had worked hard for them but these prizes are different. I am grateful for them, but they only remind me how much work still needs to be done1 to achieve the goal of education for every boy and girl. I don't want to be thought of as the 'girl who was shot by the Taliban' but the 'girl who fought for education.'"

It is difficult to be tuned into the news recently and not have heard the story of Malala Yousafzai, a young woman in the northern regions of Pakistan who spoke out for education, was shot by the Taliban, and has become a world celebrity. She is now the youngest person in the world to ever be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

This book is her story, and through her story, a history of the northern part of Pakistan and somewhat a history of the fight for education. The culmination of the book, of course, is the event that brought Malala worldwide attention. The bulk of the book builds the background of the situation that leads to her shooting.

I was actually not sure I wanted to read the book. It sat on my night stand for a week before I read it. Not because I do not want to share in her story, but rather because I was not sure how the story would be told. Would it be a medium for publicity? Would it be the voice of the adult co-author instead of this young woman? Would a reader be able to read the book as a book and not get bogged down in political statements? Would the book be her story or a way of depicting history and politics? Would the book be a one-sided view of Pakistan and its people? An article that appeared in The Washington Post captures my concern:  "It can sometimes feel as if the entire West were trying to co-opt Malala, as if to tell ourselves: "Look, we're with the good guys, we're on the right side. The problem is over there." Sometimes the heroes we appoint to solve our problems can say as much about us as about them. Malala's answer is courage. Our answer is celebrity." (Max Fisher. "The Nobel committee did Malala a favor in passing her over for the peace prize." The Washington Post, October 11, 2013)

Surprisingly, the book does a good job of balancing the personal story of Malala and her family and the history and unsettled political climate of the Swat Valley. To me, the book projects the voices of both authors - a young woman coming through life altering changes and an experienced journalist investigating a part of the world. This history covered goes beyond Malala's young life, presenting background through the stories of her father and the generations before. Her voice comes through as that of a young woman - stories of arguing with siblings, spending time with friends, and longing for a home that remains out of reach. "Over the last year I've seen many other places, but my valley remains to me the most beautiful place in the world. I don't know when I will see it again, but I know that I will."

The issue of eduction is a global issue. Malala's story is only one of so many more. I hope this book and the fact that her story caught the world's attention leads to real global changes and efforts to help all the children. I hope that Malala is always known as the "girl who fought for education."


  1. I read this book in Portuguese as soon as it was published here in Brasil and as suggested in our weekly main news magazine that had Malala's same picture on its cover.
    I got a bit lost when she tells us all about politics and some of her family's life but it was a good reading that turned into a nice topic for discussion among my students of English.

    1. Are you a teacher? I would love to know what your students thought of the book. I am familiar with the geographic region and the culture related in the book. So, it held a different meaning for me.