We all know who Malala is, and given how well known she is, we might think that we know enough about her and what happened to her, that reading an entire book about her would hardly provide us with any new insight or information.
Wrong – definitely wrong.
“I Am Malala”, written by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb, is Malala’s autobiography. She speaks about her life from her earliest years, and describes both her various experiences, and also events and happenings in her area and country during her childhood years. She also describes her family quite a bit, with most of this description focusing on her father, who is quite a courageous and dedicated person Initially the book focuses on the fun and frivolous aspects of childhood, but slowly we start to see how the Talibanization of her area starts, and the ensuing challenges that all face. It then continues through the ups and downs that she faced, culminating in the day that she was shot, and the aftermath of the shooting.
The book is excellent – a must read. It is authentic in that she is very open about all types of topics – both serious topics like those related to the Taliban and to education, and also childish topics such as playing with her friends and siblings, movies they watched, books she read, and competitive rivalries in school. One also gains good insight into the Pashtun culture of both Malala’s family and the area where she lived. It is gripping with the pace building up starting approximately one third of the way into the book. Prior to that the narrative is slow – perhaps a bit too slow (my only observation on what could have been better in the book) – but then the pace picks up, and as you near the end, you cannot put down the book.
And it is extremely inspiring. To read about her thirst for education and for the right to education, and to what extent she and her friends were ready to go to be able to have education, it really makes one realize that a lot of us take so much for granted. The priority and focus that she puts on her school books and on learning in general is admirable. The next time you hear any child complain about going to school…I’d suggest to either tell them parts of this book or have them read this book. One cannot look at childhood education (and the right to this) the same way after reading this book.
The book is put together well, and through most of the book, it does seem genuinely like Malala speaking. Despite living in a relatively remote area of Pakistan, the topics that she studies are quite modern (Romeo and Juliet, reading Brief History of Time at age 11, etc.), and she and her friends also have a fair amount of exposure to world popular culture (e.g., Twilight movies).
There are also pictures showing her childhood, and some pictures from around the time that she was shot.
The book, and her vision with regards to childhood education, truly both inspires and humbles. She shows us a vision of what could be possible, and it causes us to introspect with regards to how we can help make this a reality.
When reading the book, one also feels a sense of frustration with the situation where she is living. She, her family, and her friends, have ideas and beliefs that could bring very positive change – and thus it is quite frustrating when Taliban leaders take over and start killing those who opposed them and their views. Another frustrating part is reading some of the negative comments people in her own country have made about her.
And how is the book doing in her country? Mixed reaction initially…and now the Pakistan Taliban has banned bookstores from selling her book. Furthermore, the cleric behind her shooting, Mullah Fazlullah, has just been named as the new head of the Pakistan Taliban. Malala has a lot of hope for transforming her country, even wanting to become prime minister someday, so while recent news such as the above seem like steps backward, Malala’s optimism, vision, and drive, give one hope that she and others like her can bring about positive change.
Malala is truly an extraordinary person, and one feels both impressed and very hopeful when one finishes this book. Read “I Am Malala” to understand her life story, to appreciate education, to believe that one person can make an incredible difference, and to be inspired to change the world to make it a better place.
Rating: 3.5 out of 4