9/11 in 2001 was America’s first encounter with Islamic terrorism. Since then, our country has lived in fear of terrorist attacks occurring in American cities. Little did we know of the horrific crisis unfolding in the Middle East, specifically in Pakistan, the heart of the Islamic terrorism phenomena. In the book I am Malala, 11 year old Malala Yousafzai tells the story of her first hand experiences of life changed forever by Islamic extremism, and the extremists’ attempt to deny girls the right to an education. Malala shares the unforgettable story of her young life filled with insurmountable odds, her fight with extremism, and how she overcame those odds to become a beacon for the right of all girls to an education.
Malala’s life began in the peaceful Swat Valley in Pakistan. Malala idolized her valley and loved everything about it! It was the place where she went to school, where all her friends lived: it was her home! She played happily with her brothers, went to school, and did her homework. The first few years of her life were just like any other small child’s. Malala’s describes the Swat Valley as very scenic, green and simply beautiful. The vivid imagery makes you feel as though you are in the Swat Valley yourself. She was born into a Muslim family that valued women’s rights more than most other Muslim families did. From the second she was born, Malala was seen as the lucky child; she was seen as the girl that could change the world. Her father, an educator, saw great potential in her. From an early age, Malala was passionate about going to school and learning. With the help and support of her father, Malala began to speak at various conferences about women’s right to an education. Slowly as she grew up, she began to face some of the harsh realities of being a Muslim girl, and how some did not view girls as equal to boys.
The idyll was broken when the Taliban, an extremist Islamic organization invaded their valley and the regions around it. Basic rights such as the freedom of speech and the freedom to practice religion that we take for granted in the West, were under attack. Malala and her father’s school for girls, and their promotion of education for girls in society attracted the Taliban’s attention.
Under the Taliban’s radical interpretation of Islamic, women and girls were not treated as equal to boys and men. Muslim women and girls were not allowed to sing or dance,watch television, leave the house unaccompanied by a man who was a relative or even go to school. They were required to cover themselves from head to toe. Malala and her father refused to give in to these harsh rules, and spoke at hundreds of conferences to inform and influence the public on the importance of female education and equality. By just 10 years old, Malala’s name was known all across Pakistan. At the age of 11, Malala had even written her own journal, published under a screen name to keep her safe from the Taliban. This young girl was strongly supported by the public. Although there were threats from the Taliban, no one believed that the Taliban would attack a sweet, innocent 11 year old girl. But boy was everyone wrong!
The Taliban demanded that Malala’s father stop educating girls and speaking up for girls’ right to an education. When Malala’s father and Malala did not give in to the Taliban’s demands, the Taliban shot Malala. 11 year Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head on October 9, 2012 by the Taliban on the backseat of a school bus. Unexpectedly, the whole country of Pakistan and the whole world rose to support Malala as a result of her shooting. In America, President Obama gave speeches about how wrong and inhumane these actions of the Taliban were. The Pakistani people and the people of Malala’s homeland prayed and spoke in support of Malala. Children and families from all around the world sent letters of praise and admiration to “Malala: the girl who was attacked by the Taliban”. Malala was flown to a hospital in the United Kingdom, where she underwent life saving surgeries. After a long fight for her life, she survived and got better. On getting better, Malala continued to speak out against extremism, and for the right of girls everywhere to an education. Her courage and efforts resulted in her being named the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.Malala became an icon for equal rights for girls, an advocate for girls’ rights and education, and an opponent of fundamentalist terrorism.
“I am Malala” is a book written with a very authentic voice. It’s language is clear, simple and yet effective.She creates a vivid contrast between the life before the Taliban, and how her world changed with the rise of islamic terrorism and the Taliban. Malala’s writing provides an unique insider’s perspective of the impact of Islamic terrorism on the lives of ordinary people, especially children. Malala writes very passionately about her determination and courage to keep speaking out on the issues that are near to her, even though she was just a child when she wrote the book
I am Malala is a story about strength, perseverance, courage and conviction. I would strongly recommend this book to people of all ages; everyone has something to learn from Malala. Malala’s story is truly inspirational.
Review by Ria Joshi