On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.
Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.
I am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.
I am Malala will make you believe in the power of one person’s voice to inspire change in the world.
My Review (Spoilers!):
Executive Summary: inspiring
Of course I had heard of this book when it came out, but I really only knew the just of it–a girl in Pakistan had been shot by the Taliban for standing up for education for girls. I had partially intended to read it, but at the same time, I was nervous that it was going to be really hard to read and sad. It was honestly really neither. Malala, who would have been 15 or 16 at the time of the book (and English is not her first, or second, language), is a really impressive writer (which of course makes the idea of girls’ education even more obvious). Separately, the end, where they get into more of the details of her shooting and recovery, is sad, but in the most pious, hopeful sort of way. It was very emotional, but not really that sad. (In fairness, it did probably help that I knew she lived).
This book is going to be very hard for me to summarize, as it is quite dense on details. So you’ll just have to read it yourself. The first 1/2 -2/3 of the book is a lot of the details of the history of Pakistan (interspersed with stories of Malala’s life). While the reader is introduced to the story of the shooting at the start of the book, the full story including the aftermath doesn’t happen until the end.
Malala was born in the region of Swat which is near the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It has a rich history, having been lived in by a variety of groups of people over many thousands of years. It’s in the northern section of Pakistan where there are hills, valleys, and rivers. (It used to be a major tourist destination.)
In the 90s, Pakistan’s leader was a woman named Benazir Bhutto, one of Malala’s heroes. (Bhutto was eventually voted out and was in exile. She eventually returned to Pakistan where multiple assassination attempts were made on her, one finally succeeding). After the events of 2001, the hunt for bin Laden created serious tension in Pakistan and the Taliban rose to power in the region. It started innocently enough with a radio program talking about being a better Islam (with ideas that everyone agreed with) and then slowly but surely transitioned into more radical ideas. It’s incredible to me that in less than a decade, enough wide spread panic occurred to set Pakistan back hundreds of years (my great aunt was in school in the rural US in the early 1900s and continued until high school graduation).
Through the Taliban’s rule, women were “strongly encouraged” to wear the burqa. (Malala’s family were Sunni Muslims which are only required to cover their heads, not even their faces, and did not wear burqas.) They were also forbidden from attending school (which was eventually lessened to girls could only attend school up until a certain grade). The girls continued to pretend they were younger, and also thought they were safe in the region once the Taliban claimed that they had left the region. (Of course they actually didn’t).
During 2008, when the education for girls was announced to be stopped, Malala began being the spokesperson for girl’s education. She did many interviews and did a diary program for the BBC speaking of her general feelings. In the middle of 2009, a peace agreement was formed with the Taliban, which they pretended to agree to so then they were forced out by the government (more fighting in the region). However after this, Malala and her friends returned to school. Things were tumultuous but fine until bin Laden was found hiding in Pakistan. US-Pakistani relations became even more stressed. The Taliban, which was not ever really gone, came back. Then in 2012, Malala is shot.
After Malala was shot, the world opened up and poured out help for her. She was taken to the hospital where emergency surgery was performed. She was then transferred to a military hospital where her recovery continued. It was obvious that additional, more highly technical surgeries were needed so she was again transferred. This time on a private flight by the UAE royal family to a military hospital in Birmingham, England. She went without her family (who could not get passports in time for some asinine reason). Her recovery continued and eventually her family arrived. Malala’s father was offered a job in England, allowing the family to stay. Malala wants to eventually return to Pakistan and continue her activism. I hope she succeeds.
Verdict: 4.5 Stars
I realize that I provided a very short summary for this book. The book is so detailed that for me to provide a summary would have been to rewrite the book. I tried to hit on the main points. This book really is amazing and worth reading. My husband actually lived in Pakistan his first few years of life as his dad was on job rotation there. I am sure that rotation no longer exists. I truly hope Malala succeeds in changing the face of Pakistan back to one that supports all its people regardless.