Review of 'I am Malala'

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, and Christina Lam

i_am_malala.jpg The whole world has heard of Malala Yousafzai - The 15 year-old girl shot on a school bus in the face by a Taliban militant in Pakistan. However, not many are aware of her full story, the fact that before she was shot she was an outspoken proponent of the rights of young woman to an education in the midst of the bloody occupation by the Taliban. Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, has played a key role in her life as a teacher who passionately believes in the empowerment of education operating three schools in the Swat region of Pakistan. He encouraged the intelligent and precocious Malala from an early age to think for herself despite the restrictions of society around her. Her uneducated mother was a victim of this society who still struggles to this day to break free from her upbringing. Here Malala tells how her world changed when the Taliban came. How her once beautiful homeland was ravaged by political upheaval including the eventual takeover by the Taliban then their supposed defeat by the Pakistani military (she was actually shot after their retreat). “I am Malala” makes it clear how the Taliban instigated their will on the people – Starting small and with seemingly good intentions then as they grew in power with the support they gained before gradually revealing their true colours as a force of gross hate and intolerance in the region. Here the story of how this horror came to pass is utterly and tragically believable. Political intrigue, the lust for power and control, ignorance, and circumstances all playing major parts in the tragedy.

Malala's early life was dominated by concerns typical of any young girl but as events unfolded they played a larger and larger part in her life. Often in reading this book one feels that Malala is frequently saying how great she is so it seems quite self-serving but the reality is that this is the perspective of the young and, to be fair, the likely truth of the matter is that she is as intelligent as she frequently reminds us here. With her intelligence and education she is able to see the truth of what is going on around her to question what others - both young and old - appear to blindly accept. Seeing where the path they are being forced down will take them. A girl who has been tragically forced into the loss of innocence of adulthood well before her time. A worthy winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for her actions even before her shooting.

When she lived in Swat Malala's life revolved around her education where she excelled so when this was threatened the political upheaval around her hit home. Even before her education was in jeopardy she vocally questioned the actions of her people and her government in letting them fall victim to the radicalisation imposed by the extremists as she saw her world fall away from around her. Before her shooting she was an international celebrity and this has continued to this day only fuelled on by the exile forced on her by the attack and the fame it brought her frequently addressing world leaders and organisations. We tend to think of the one event that brought this young woman into the public spotlight, her shooting, but the reality is that this was only one chapter half-way through her story that served only to focus the spotlight on the work she was already doing. In this spotlight she has narrowed her focus from all aspects of her troubled society to universal education.

The closing sections of the book of course cover her shooting which almost killed her and her eventual transport to Birmingham (in the UK) for medical treatment where her family now lives. Return to Pakistan is just too dangerous but I like to hope she will eventually be able to return to her beloved homeland.

An amazing insight into the contemporary history of the troubled Pakistan told from the perspective of a young girl who got caught up in events of global importance. Her contention is that much of these troubles are from ignorance which is a disease that can be cured by education that starts with the young.

A very readable book though, perhaps unexpectedly, very serious throughout. Often shocking “I am Malala” tells it like it is with no apologies though leaves us with a plea to end the ignorance. Two sections of photographs bring the reality of Malala's extraordinary life to light.

Rating: “I have absolutely no complaints”

Review Date: 2018-01-28

Genre: Autobiography

Publisher: Orion Books

Publication Date: 2013

ISBN: 9781780226583