Malala

I Am Malala
by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick

 

I saw Malala on The Daily Show, after hearing about her, of course, when the shooting happened and she became the international cause celebre; I was impressed by her poise and her humility, as well as her courage and her dedication to her cause.

I had no idea.

After reading this book, I am more than impressed: I am amazed. Because she just doesn’t make that much of it. She talks mostly about her family and her homeland and her childhood: about fighting with her brothers, about gossiping with her best friends at school, about how disappointed she was when she didn’t win first place in her class. She talks about how close her relationship is with her parents, and her parents’ different roles in the family: her father, the idealist, pushing for change, trying to do what he thought was right; her mother the steady one, the rock that the family held onto and held itself together. She herself comes of as very much an ordinary girl: when the Taliban began invading her homeland, the Swat River valley in Pakistan, she doesn’t even mention at first when she began giving interviews and talking to community leaders about the importance of education; at one point she just says, “I had already appeared on television a few times talking about these matters.” This when she was eleven.

The shooting itself, she doesn’t remember. Understandable, considering that she got shot in the left temple, and bone splinters stabbed into her brain, and an infection led to emergency surgery that removed part of her skull, which was eventually replaced with a titanium plate. But still: her main concern when she awakes several days later in a hospital in Birmingham, England, is: How is my family going to pay for this?

It’s remarkable, really, how this young woman manages to be so incredibly courageous and dedicated, and yet see herself as nothing special. She’s just doing what she feels she has to do, what she believes God requires of us all: to speak the truth and let falsehoods wither in the face of it.

It’s an interesting story, because it shows the slow progression of the Taliban’s invasion of the Swat valley, how it began with a radio show that called for the rejection of Westernization and “modern” ideas like allowing girls to be educated. Malala’s father had founded a school, which taught both boys and girls from primary through secondary grades; so he, of course, held on to his passion for education and tried to bring attention to the plight of the area as the Taliban grew more and more powerful, first through influence and propaganda, and then through violence and terrorism. Meanwhile, beginning about age eleven, Malala took up her father’s cause, as well, keeping a diary for the BBC that showed the daily life of a Pakistani schoolgirl under the Taliban’s rule, and then giving more and more interviews and speeches fighting for the right to an education for everyone, especially young women. Until, of course, she gained the attention of the Taliban, and they tried to silence her.

Boy, did that not work.

I would highly recommend this book for everyone, but most especially for young people — of course for young women. It’s a lot like Anne Frank’s diary in that Malala really does seem like a regular school girl; she worries about her appearance, she constantly fights and makes up with her best friend; and — oh yeah, incidentally, she fights for her right to learn against violent madmen. She is both relatable and a wonderful role model, and her story should be an inspiration to all of us to focus on what is actually important, in this violent world we are all trying to live in.

Excellent book. Read it, and give it to your daughters, and your sons.

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