Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

Posted by nliakos on October 16, 2014

by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb (Little, Brown 2013)

Sixteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai and her ghostwriter Christina Lamb have written a straightforward autobiography which begins with the well-known attempt on her life and then goes back to describe her birth, her family, her home life, and her education. Along the way, she lovingly describes the Swat Valley where her Pashtun family are from and narrates the political turmoil that has roiled Pakistan since its creation. From all of this, I learned a lot–about the history and geography of Pakistan, and about the Pashtun culture.

You cannot help but admire Malala for her courage, honesty, and sheer goodness, but her father is another extraordinary character in her story: born into a poor family, he pursued his dream of building schools to educate his people despite all odds; he boldly spoke out, again and again, against corrupt politicians and the Taliban when so doing could have meant his life (and one wonders why they didn’t just finish him off, as they did so many others). He obviously was an inspiration to his daughter, who in turn became his hero.

(Of course one could also point out that Mr. Yousafzai’s political activity constantly put his entire family at risk. If he were murdered by the Taliban, how would they survive? His long-suffering wife and children seem to have accepted the risks he took constantly–perhaps because they knew they couldn’t prevent him from taking them.)

Malala describes some obsessive-compulsive anxiety over checking to make sure all the doors were locked at night as she too began to receive death threats, but overall according to her description, she was pretty matter-of-fact about the danger she and her father were in because of their outspokenness. At one point, she writes, “It seemed to me that everyone knows they will die one day. My feeling was nobody can stop death; it doesn’t matter if it comes from a Talib or cancer. So I should do whatever I want to do.” (pg. 313 in the large print edition)  Pretty amazing from a thirteen-year-old, which is her age at the time she is describing. If only everyone could internalize this message!

The book is written in simple language which should be quite accessible to intermediate English language learners.

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