Despite being only 16 years old, Malala Yousafzai has won many prizes around the world for her activism in the fight for girls’ education and women’s rights before the Taliban’s attempt to silence her in October 2012. Malala survived their attack and went on to win even more accolades, including Pakistan’s Youth Peace Prize, the Sakharov Prize, awarded for leadership in human rights and freedom of thought and a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2013. Together with Christina Lamb, she wrote this memoir about her life, the history of the Swat Valley and her time living under the Taliban.
I have a student that patiently waited for me to buy this book and catalog it so that she could check it out. She came to my library to return the book last week but said that she actually didn’t want to return it. She wanted to just keep it, because she was moving to another town over spring break and wanted to keep reading the book. She is a very sweet girl who has read every book with Muslim characters in my library. I was really touched by the way she connected with the book. It inspired me to delete it from our collection (I will replace it) and just give it to her. She hugged the book and me. It was totally worth it.
Here is what she and I both saw in this book.
This book is as much a story of Malala’s fight for girl’s education as it is as a history of the Swat Valley, an introduction to her Pashtun culture, the story of how the Taliban entered and affected the Swat Valley and all of its inhabitants, and the conflict the Swat Valley’s residents felt about the Pakistan Army’s fight against the Taliban. It’s a fascinating insider’s perspective into current events and an area of the world few in the United States have seen.
Malala is a straight A student, the daughter of her school’s founder. She loves studying and treasures her school books. From the outset of the book, you see that Malala will follow in her father’s footsteps as an activist. Her father is an outspoken advocate for education, specifically girls’ education and bringing peace to the Swat Valley. It is no surprise that we learn that Malala began anonymously writing a blog for the BBC about life under the Taliban when she was just 11. She then begins speaking in public about her belief that girls should be educated and her insistence that the Pakistani government use some of the billions of dollars received in aid from the United States to rebuild schools destroyed by the Taliban. All her public appearances as well as her father’s bring her to the attention of the Taliban. Both Malala and her father receive death threats from the Taliban. This only steels Malala to bravely continue her advocacy.
I was fascinated by this book as was my student. The pictures in the book help the reader connect with Malala on a more personal level. I would recommend this to middle and high school readers.