If you ever need the volume turned down on the bullshit in your life, I recommend this book.
When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.
Never have I experienced something that so reminded me of all the things I take for granted. My freedoms of speech, religion, and choice. My rights to vote, receive an education, and to be cared for. My safety. I was embarrassingly not surprised at the hardships Malala shared about her life, but I was shocked at how little I had truly thought about them.
The news and media outlets are constantly filled with alarming reports of religious extremists, poverty, hunger, and suppressed rights of peoples all over the world. Finding perspective and a connection to all this negativity can be hard. I’ve spent years hardening myself to the trauma of the world outside my bubble. It’s the only way to survive when news of happy things are few and far between. But hearing about this from someone who experienced it first-hand turned my world on its side.
Malala Yousafazi is now 18 and is an outspoken advocate for women’s education. She believes that all people have the same right to education. However, when she was 10 years old, the Taliban came to the Swat valley. They started bombing schools and decreed girls should not be permitted to be educated. Her father, Ziauddin, encouraged her to speak out and keep advocating for her education, just as he did. By the time she was 15 Malala was a well-known women’s rights and education advocate from Pakistan. Threats were being made against her entire family. In October 2012, riding a school bus home, a man with a gun climbed in the back of the bus at a security checkpoint and shot Malala in the head by a member of the Taliban.
“Let us pick up our books and our pens,” I said. “They are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.”
Rushed to the Swat hospital she was airlifted to a military hospital and eventually to Birmingham, UK. She survived the wound and is still working on her recovery. But that wound did not stop her. Malala still speaks out on behalf of suppressed women everywhere.
I told myself, Malala, you have already faced death. This is your second life. Don’t be afraid – if you are afraid, you can’t move forward.
I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Malala Yousafazi herself. However, this book was written in conjunction with a journalist, Christina Lamb. I tried to take the words with a grain of salt. This book was published when Malala was 16, and sometimes the pacing, phrasing, and wording sounds like that of an adult. Christina Lamb was 46 when she helped co-author this book. Lamb is a British foreign correspondent for The Sunday Times. It’s obvious that she has seen life as it truly is in Pakistan and helped Malala speak to this. It’s not always clear whose voice is speaking, but it is clear there are two voices.
That said, the audiobook constantly reminds me of Malala the 16-year-old. We learn that she likes Twilight and Justin Bieber, the color pink and fancy pumps. She is a daddy’s girl. She even mentions doing henna tattoos with chemistry symbols. But Malala is more than just that. Her conviction and character are pervasive throughout the entire book. She is both serious and lighthearted. I don’t believe that this woman would allow another to speak for her. I don’t think it matters how Lamb might have changed the exact words Malala would have used. What matters is the message.
I don’t want to be thought of as the ‘girl who was shot by the Taliban’ but the ‘girl who fought for education’. This is the cause to which I want to devote my life.
Malala remains a controversial figure today. The youngest Nobel laureate for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, she continues to speak out. The extremists of her country think she is a puppet for the West and she is too liberal in her interpretation of Islam. Moderates of Pakistan dislike her for showing the world the negative aspects of their country and for living in greater comfort in the UK than they can imagine. Even her government set her up for controversy when they created an Educational Attache position in the UK for her father. This allows the family to live abroad on diplomatic passports and prevents them from seeking asylum in the UK. She yearns desperately to return to her life in Swat but finds that she is unable. While Malala and her family might be admired public figures living fairly well-off, this is not what is important to Malala.
My goal in reading this book was to better understand who Malala Yousafazi is, what she advocates for, and who she is as both a human and a public figure. In the end, I was blown away. I learned quite a bit about Pakistan, Islam, and the Taliban. But I also learned what it means to live as a displaced person. And I learned a lot about myself. I’ll never be a strong public figure like Malala, but I learned through reading this that my freedoms and my education are important to me. I would fight for them.
I am Malala. My world has changed, but I have not.
An inspiring story. While it’s far from perfect, it’s exactly what it needs to be. I recommend it to all.