I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

Apr 9, 2014

I just ate my first otter pop of the season (it is nearly 80 degrees here today), and it was heavenly. Seriously, I don't think an otter pop has ever tasted so perfectly delicious to me.

And now I'm trying to figure out a way to tie in otter pops with I Am Malala. Um . . . thinking . . . and nope. I guess you'll just have to consider that your random thought for the day.

Moving on . . .

I read I Am Malala right in the midst of our move. It has been an extremely popular book over the last six months (it won the Goodreads Choice Award in the Memoir and Autobiography category), and snagging a library copy was difficult. With all the chaos our move created, my time to sit down with an actual book was limited. I read about half of it before the list of holds called it back to the library. That same week, the audio version of it came in (seriously, could I have timed it any better?), and I was able to fly through the second half as I unpacked and painted and cleaned.

I'm actually so glad my reading of this book was split between the hardback and the audio. I liked seeing the names of places/people and paging through all the photographs, but then it was so nice to actually hear what all those names of places/people were supposed to sound like.

Malala Yousafzai is a 16-year-old young woman from the Swat Valley in Pakistan. Her father has done much to promote and facilitate the education of boys and girls in their country.  As Malala grew up and attended her father's school, she began speaking out about the importance of education for girls. At this same time, the Taliban took control of many areas of Pakistan and severely suppressed women's rights. Malala and her father did not back down, and on October 9, 2012, her school bus was stopped by the Taliban, and she was shot in the head. After her miraculous recovery, she has become even more of an advocate and international voice for women's education.

The thing I had to keep reminding myself of while reading this book was that these events just barely happened. While Malala's story is incredible, her perspective is somewhat limited. At the very end, she is writing about things that took place in August 2013, not even a year ago. Part of the reason why this book is so popular right now is because it is very, very current. But that's also somewhat of a drawback because so much of this story is still in the future.

Along those same lines, I was struck by the naivete and innocence of Malala's voice. At 16 years old, she is still very much a young woman with limited experience. In some ways, this made her story more profound because it was so simple and untarnished. But at the same time, it almost felt like something was missing, and I think it might be the added wisdom and perspective that ten (or twenty) more years will give her. And yet, if she had waited to write her story, the innocence of youth would have been lost. (One of my favorite parts was when she mentioned reading The Wizard of Oz for the first time when she was recovering in Birmingham, England. She said she was so inspired by Dorothy's story, and I just had to wonder how many 16-year-old American girls would count Dorothy as a role model (or at least admit to such.))

However, for all Malala's innocence on one hand, she has been exposed to a dark side of the world that many parents try to protect their children from. I was kind of shocked by how little I knew about the Taliban's control, especially the ways in which they stripped the people of their culture and history. It is so crazy that these kinds of things are happening right now; they feel like they should be restricted to the tragedies of past centuries.

Because of all we had going on, I didn't take as many notes as I usually do while reading (okay, I actually didn't take any notes). But I do remember three things that stuck out to me at the time: First, Malala's belief in God; I was so impressed by her deep faith and how familiar it felt to my own. Second, Malala's courage; she has continued to be a voice for education, now on a much more visible and international scale; when asked about her fears, she said that she's already faced the worst-case scenario (death), and now she is just going to move forward trusting in God. Third, Malala's father. I know he's received some criticism for putting Malala in dangerous situations, but I don't think he ever thought the Taliban would come after her (he thought he would be the one targeted); and really, I have to admire and praise the incredible love he has for his daughter and for sharing that love so publicly.

I will be interested to see how this book holds up over time, but for right now, it was a very relevant and important read.

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