Malala Yousafzai. Pic: AFP.

Malala Yousafzai. Pic: AFP.

I haven’t finished “I am Malala” yet but a few people have already asked me what it’s like so I’ll give my review on the first part I’ve read and update this page later.

The first thing that struck me about the book (about the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban) is that beyond the first few pages of the prologue, this actual “event” is not mentioned again until page 203 (yes I admit I looked ahead). Of a 265 page book that’s significant.

And that’s because Malala recognises that where we come from is important. The story of who we are is just as important as what happens to us and what we do about that. “Be the change you want to see in the world,” said Gandhi. I get the feeling this story is very much about our responses to our history, life and the situations we find ourselves in as much as anything. It’s also perhaps an education for some readers about the circumstances that other people in the world face that are very different to their own.

 

And so the section I’m currently engrossed in is all about her family background – her grandfather, her father, their marriage, how he started the school and how she grew up up in the school … These sections are so descriptive you feel yourself transported there – listening to her grandfather’s speeches, seeing the mud that engulfed the school twice during floods, observing how the family lived in a shack and so on.

There’s something very sensory about “I am Malala” also. There are journeys into the bazaar past jewellery stores and wooden cages crammed with chickens. There are landscapes like paddy fields, orchards, mountains and valleys that seem beautiful, dusty and hard. And above all else there’s the interweaving of relationships such as those between her parents, her family members and her friends of which Pashtun hospitality and the traditions and culture they live in takes a central part.

“I am Malala” doesn’t paint her life romantically, it’s just a simple account of her background that will no doubt strike some readers as incredibly richer than they imagined. But it’s also how world events have shaped it such as September 11 and the rise of the Taliban.

Malala was asked “who is Malala” by the man that shot her. She had no response at the time but this book is now her answer to him and others that would stand in the way of girls receiving an education. There are many girls in the world who could be Malala and indeed YouTube is full of girls proclaiming the same message–“I am Malala”–without fear of the consequences.

For what is striking perhaps so far in my reading is that within a nation that has created something like the Taliban, it has also created someone as beautiful and courageous as this sixteen year old girl. Verdict so far: definitely worth a read.

Rating: 10/10

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