“I Am Malala: the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban” by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb; Little, Brown and Company (288 pages, $26).
Published in October of 2013, I Am Malala is a memoir written by Malala Yousafzai, an incredibly brave young Pakistani woman who stood up against Taliban terrorists to advocate the fair treatment and education of girls everywhere. She is also the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. While the title of the book tells what Malala is most famous for, it does not even scratch the surface of who Malala is. By the time I finished reading her book, I felt like I was a member of Malala’s family, as well as a witness to her bravery.
Malala is the daughter of Pakistani teacher and educational activist Ziauddin Yousafzai. Her family ran several local schools, one of which she proudly attended herself. Growing up, she formed a friendly rivalry with the girls at school whom she competed with for highest grades. Meanwhile, at home, she always found herself drawn to the politics her father discussed and participated in with other local men.
The evils of the Taliban had long seemed a distant threat to Malala and her family, but eventually they began to invade her region of Pakistan, and the government of Pakistan could not always stop their activities. Malala’s safe and happy community gradually became a community cloaked in fear and death. The marketplace where Malala once shopped with her mother was now closed to women, people would be killed for heresy and put on display, men with guns would stop cars to ensure their occupants didn’t have any Western paraphernalia and that any women were properly covered by burkas. A suicide bomber even attacked a funeral procession, killing relatives of one of Malala’s friends. Despite it all, Malala and her family continued to go to school.
In 2009, from ages 11-12, Malala wrote a public diary under a pseudonym for the BBC detailing her life during the Taliban occupation of her home area. This diary became very popular among the people of Pakistan, and infamous among the Taliban. It was quite difficult for Malala to maintain the secrecy. One of Malala’s best friends started to suspect her when she recognized one of the stories told in this diary, and when Malala admitted it to her friend, she was upset that Malala had kept it from her, but she still kept Malala’s secret. Ultimately it was Malala’s father who accidentally blew her cover. In an unrelated interview with the press, he detailed an easily recognized event of his daughter’s life that was in the BBC’s diary. Come 2010, journalist Adam B. Ellick documented her life for the New York Times as the Pakistani military intervened in the region. She rose in prominence, giving interviews in print and on television. Malala had become a symbol for education and gender equality against the Taliban’s strict demands for girls, and unfortunately, this had made her a target.
On October 9th, 2012, two men with guns stop the school bus Malala is riding and come aboard. One shouted “Who is Malala?” After nobody answered, he fired three shots, hitting three school girls. One bullet travelled from Malala’s left eye to her shoulder, and her friends Shazia and Kainat were also non-fatally injured. Malala was taken by helicopter to the Combined Military Hospital in Peshawar and then airlifted to a military hospital in Rawalpindi. On October 15th, she was flown by jet to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.
Despite the Taliban’s attempt to silence her, I am happy to say Malala woke up on October 16th. She is still alive and well to this very day, and she is still fulfilling her dream of being a champion for human rights, gender equality and children’s education. Her advocacy has grown into an international movement, and according to former Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, she has become the country’s “most prominent citizen”. Malala now lives in Birmingham, though she misses Swat, and plans to continue her activism so she can be known not as “the girl who was shot by the Taliban” but as “the girl who fought for education”. If you’d like to follow what Malala is up to today, you can check out her website: Malala.org.
Co-author Christina Lamb OBE is an award-winning journalist for British newspaper The Sunday Times. She’s written nine books to date, including bestsellers like Our Bodies, Their Battlefields. I can’t say that I’ve read other books she’s written, so I cannot differentiate between Malala’s thoughts and Christina’s writing, but I’m sure she contributed much to help make this wonderfully engaging book possible.
Donavon Anderson is a reference library assistant at May Memorial Library. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.