For those who don't know, Malala is a Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for her outspoken beliefs on women's right to education. The book chronicles her childhood in the Swat valley and her increasing presence in the blogosphere and in international politics. She reviews the moments that shaped her life and her beliefs, from wandering around her father’s school as a young girl to the infiltration of the Taliban into her hometown to the natural disasters that caused so much strife for her village.
What was most interesting about this book for me was twofold: hearing the voice of someone so strong, yet so young, and seeing another perspective on recent events in history. Malala wrote the book with Christina Lamb, a journalist, but the voice belongs to a teenager. Several times, she mentions her annoyance with her brother or fights that she has with her school friends. But these plights are universal and they are part of growing up. For me, as a reader in the US, despite being worlds away from her struggles and the problems she saw throughout her childhood, this aspect was a reminder that she’s a young woman, just as I was, with similar grievances to teenagers across the globe.
The second part of what interested me most was seeing the same events that I watched on TV happen through someone else’s eyes. More specifically the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the death of Osama Bin Laden. I had watched the news coverage of Benazir Bhutto while I was in Madrid a few years ago, but while the news channels reaction was alarmist, the response was muted outside of the media (at least from what I remember). For the women of Pakistan, this was seemingly a much larger setback. The death of Osama Bin Laden, on the other hand, was celebrated in the U.S.. I was at school, and students ran into the courtyards cheering and waving the American flag. But while it was a proud day here, Malala wrote of the shame of the Pakistanis for not having been involved, and not having noticed a wanted terrorist within their country’s borders. Without opening a political debate, it was simply interesting to see another side and further ramifications that I might never have considered.
Malala is obviously a very impressive young woman. This is a quick and easy read, and I would recommend to anyone with an interest in the Middle East, education, or women's rights. Especially for female readers, her voice is so clear and so relatable, despite that the circumstances that she has faced are so distinct from what most of us experience on a daily basis. My only qualification is that after having read this, and Sheryl Sandberg's book a few months ago, I might take a break from “strong woman literature” for a while. The stories are undoubtedly inspiring while you read them. But I find that without an overarching tone, without continued plot, without a larger theme beyond a show of strength, these stories fade away much more quickly than others for me. Generally, as soon as I start these types of books where these women faced hardship, but are now oh so grateful to be where they are (I don’t doubt that they are, really), some part of me just can’t hope but wait for it to conclude. I’m happy to have read this and now have a little slice of what life is like for Pakistani females, and I fully expect to see Malala’s voice strengthen and continue to fight for her beliefs. I’m just ready to retire this genre for a good while, or until the next strong female comes onto the literary scene with a story to tell, and I feel compelled as a woman to listen.
I'm reading Nick Bilton's Hatching Twitter, and thoroughly enjoying the struggles of watching this extremely successful business rise from nothing. However, I'm already frustrated with the primary cast, who continue to stab one another in the back over and over again. Anyways, I'll save this for the review.
For those who haven't seen Malala speak, check out her interview with Jon Stewart: