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Malala opens her heart, family, neighborhood, religion, history and culture to our understanding in her simple, insightful voice. Nurtured as an equal by her educator father she started as a young child to advocate education for street children. As the Taliban invaded her beloved Swat Valley and closed girls schools, she became the face and voice of the girls in open defiance of their rulings. Did you know she has been nominated for the Noble Peace prize? I didn't. I couldn't put this book down and it helped me to understand the Pakistani view of recent historical events such as the war in Afghanistan and the killing of Ben Ladin. After reading I did an internet search and watched videos of her talks and "liked her" on her Facebook page which has pictures of the school, her family and valley. What a wonderful young woman - who made a difference and will continue to do so. This book is a keeper, I will read again.
74 of 75 people found this review helpful
Malala Yousafzai is on a crucial, well publicized and lauded mission to educate children. I expected "I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot By the Taliban" (2013) would be An Alarming Book with lots of Depressing Statistics that would make me feel Somewhat Superior in a Privileged Western Way, but Inspired to Help. What I didn't expect was that I would gain respect for a very different culture and enjoy a fascinating, but tragic story.
The inhabitants of the Swat Valley of northwest Pakistan often use rope-pulley bridges to cross dangerous raging rivers and deep chasms quickly. "I Am Malala" is a fast ride across what has been, for me, an uncrossable gulf.
Pashtuns have lived in the stunningly beautiful Swat Valley for more than 2300 years. Malala is a proud member of the Pashtun tribe, who are fierce fighters, culturally bound to welcome guests, and have traditions of marriage handed down for centuries. When Malala was born in Mingora, her father Ziauddin, was delighted - although tribal custom means only the birth of a boy is celebrated. Ziauddin was determined to give Malala and the other girls in Swat an education.
Swat is almost entirely conservative, traditional Muslims. Men and women are kept separated after puberty, people pray five times a day, and work outside the home is not encouraged for women. That doesn't mean that the Koran says that women shouldn't be educated - in fact, it says the exact opposite. (And let's not forget that jobs weren't encouraged for women in the Western World until 60 or so years ago.)
After 9/11, the Taliban arrived in Swat and took effective control of the area from an impotent and absentee Pakistani government. In their fundamentalist interpretation of the Koran, there is no dancing, no television, no song, and women are to be illiterate. When I read this book, I realized that the Taliban is to Islam what Westboro Baptist Church is to Christians - really out there, aching for jihad or crusade, and not actually representative of either religion.
Malala learned to love learning, and to love school - especially when the Taliban took it from her. She became the voice of girls who wanted to learn by blogging, and then by appearing as an education advocate on television. She was prominently featured by the New York Times in a documentary "Class Dismissed" (2009). I remember that well - it was the first NY Times documentary I watched.
Malala and her family never thought, as a child, that she was in danger. "Who would shoot a child?" everyone said. They underestimated the desperation of fundamentalists who find their beliefs - and therefore, their power - challenged. The Taliban shot her in the head on October 9, 2012. On October 9, 2013, she answered the question she'd been asked right before the assassination attempt: "Who is Malala Yousafzai?" with this book.
I will leave the political analysis and sociological critique to other reviewers who have handled that so adeptly already. To me, this is a really good book. I'm sure Christina Lamb, the co-author, contributed greatly to that. Malala has been attending school and has had multiple surgeries in the last year, and she could not have had the time to do everything.
I am sure this book will end up on school reading lists, alongside "The Diary of a Young Girl" (Anne Frank, 1947, posthumous). Teachers, please don't mar a wonderful story by making your students find only 'One True Meaning.' For Marie Arana, writing a reverent review of "I Am Malala" for the Washington Post on October 11, 2013, this book meant something more global and less personal. We both found profound meaning in this book - but the meanings, while complementary, were different.
Finally, this book worked better for me as an Audible than in text. Mentally, reading excerpts, I tripped over Pashto and Urdu pronunciations - which would have distracted me from the book. Archie Panjabi sounds young, and her narrative as a 16 year old works.
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235 of 252 people found this review helpful