Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Book Review: I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb
This is a very unique book in the sense that most of its contents were already known to the world much before its publication. The protagonist and author of the book – Malala – was shot by the Taliban in Oct-2012. Barely a year later, Malala was speaking at the UN and was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize at the tender age of 16.
The book’s blurb reads: “I come from a country which was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday. When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. On Tuesday 9 October 2012, she almost paid the ultimate price. Shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, she was not expected to survive. Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest ever nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, and of Malala parents’ fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons. It will make you believe in the power of one person’s voice to inspire change in the world. ‘Who is Malala’? the gunman demanded. I am Malala and this is my story.”
The book is a very brave and uninhibited narrative of Malala’s fight for education and why she was targeted by the Taliban. In it, Malala paints a very vivid picture of the Swat Valley; its lakes and mountains; its lovely orchards. Though Pakistan has always been troubled by terrorism in one form or the other, the Swat Valley was largely peaceful.
She had a very normal life growing up like any other youngster. Malala reveals that she is fond of Justin Bieber and watching the Twilight movies with her friends. She likes reading books of Leo Tolstoy and Jane Austen. She loved going on school picnics and enjoying the delicious picnic lunch.
However, her routine life changed when the Taliban entered the valley. Malala takes us through a terrifying account of how slowly and gradually their life took a turn the worse. They could no longer go shopping at the bazaars as they used to; women could not be seen out in the open without a male relative accompanying them; sources of entertainment such as DVDs and TV channels were destroyed.
Amidst all this, Malala had always been a vocal and active supporter of girls’ education. She never missed a chance at any public forum to drive home the importance of educating girls and the folly of discontinuing the same. Naturally, this enraged the Taliban who had by then also started destroying schools.
The book has a very Anne Frank-like feel to it; Anne, too, was caught in the crossfire of war and had to discontinue her routine life. Throughout the book, Malala’s courage and sheer determination shine through. And credit should also be given to her parents – her dad who was the founder of several schools and a strong believer in girls’ education and her mother, who though uneducated herself, never barred Malala from going to school or speaking her mind.
After she was shot, while the whole world thought she would die, Malala fought back bravely at a hospital in UK, without her family [who joined her later] to recover fully. Once recovered, she continues to fight for the cause of education, this time, on a much larger and global scale.
What affected me the most while reading the book was Malala’s response to the whole thing. Once threatened, she could easily have been cowed down and decided to toe the line. She was, after all, a normal teenager like any of us. Nothing in her past suggested her future would turn out the way it did. But, she chose to retaliate; she chose to question and she chose to refuse. While doing so, she inspired millions around the world. While reminding us that she still is a teenager. Recuperating in the hospital, she thinks, on seeing Angelina Jolie’s message to her, how she must inform her friends about it.
Malala’s story is a story of courage; it is a story of hope; and it is a story of how the willpower of a single girl living in a remote village can have global and far-reaching consequences. Read the book to get inspired; read it to get depressed and saddened. But, above all, read it to realize how each one of us has an innate power to rebel against the evil forces. It is only when we decide to tap into that power that we can work wonders.