Beverly Diehl's Reviews > I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
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really liked it
bookshelves: autobio-memoir, coming-of-age, family, history, non-fiction

At the age of 16, most young women haven't lived enough of a life to be worthy of an autobiography. Most young women haven't been raised in a young, violent country, addressed the United Nations, been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, or been shot in the face for defending their right to an education, either.

That said, only a small part of the book is actually focused upon Malala herself as an individual; much of it centers upon the history of Pakistan, the turmoil as one leader after another has been overthrown or assassinated, the changes that took place in the country, and specifically, in the Swat Valley.

It's important background; ghostwritten by a British author and targeted (I assume) for an English-speaking audience, most of us are pretty ignorant of any country's history or geography that is not our own. Malala's love for her home country was revealed early in the lush, homesick-sounding descriptions of the Swat valley (which was once an independent country, like Texas in the USA), the always-crowded-with-visitors homes in the city of Mingora.

The oldest of three children, and the only daughter, Malala was named after a legendary Pashtun heroine, definitely a "Daddy's Girl," who loved books even as a toddler and squabbled with her little brother and sometimes with her best friend.

Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, was a fervent advocate of education for men and women even before he completed his own. He began many schools, many which were not a financial success, before Malala reached her teens. What I did not realize was what a mishmash of culture Pakistan was and is; Bollywood movies, Taliban radio programs, Ugly Betty DVD's... while at the same time electricity service is intermittent, and many homes consist of only two rooms: one for family to sleep in, one for guests.

The book reads smoothly, even if it is difficult as a parent to read of violent attacks upon children for the "crime" of wanting an education. And I had to wonder how much was toned down or softened, so as not to upset an American, British, or Pakistani readership, not an easy task.

I felt like I got a much better understanding of what it must be like to grow up in Pakistan as Malala did. I know that her favorite color is pink, her best friend is Moniba, whom she still talks to via Skype, since she and her family are now living in England, and that she deeply wants to return home to the Swat valley. Occasionally there was a hint of her voice and personality, but since she is still such a young woman, and experienced such a life-changing event, it was hard to tell who Malala is, or will become.

"Peace in every home, every street, every village, every country - this is my dream. Education for every boy and every girl in the world. To sit down in a chair and read my books with all my friends at school as is my right." I would love to see her dream realized.
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