In October, 2012, the Pakistani Taliban attempted to assassinate Malala Yousafzai,for her outspoken advocacy of woman’s rights, especially a woman’s right to education. Malala was shot in the head while sitting in a school bus (two of her friends also were hit in the spray of gunfire). It was a survivable injury, but the critical care facilities she needed do not exist in Pakistan. After initial fumbles, Pakistani government officials scrambled to respond. Malala was whisked away to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England. She recovered and, with her family, began a new life in exile, still under Taliban death threat. The teenager from Pakistan’s remote Swat Valley of is an international celebrity.
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban is a tale of a talented girl and her family, set against the complex and shifting events of Pakistani politics and the native Pashtun culture; it is a riveting and intense description of the creeping onset of Taliban occupation and the horrors it brought; finally, it is a very engaging account of one girl’s life in the wild, beautiful and contested Swat Valley region of Pakistan.
The book is about Malala’s father, Ziauddin, a teacher, headmaster and local activist and Malala. He is the dominant influence in her life and has been criticized for encouraging his talented child to be outspoken in a very dangerous place. Ziauddin is a progressive, in Western terms. He is the leader of the local environmental movement; he is a champion of girls’ education; he is a woman’s rights advocate. His opinions are not just expressed in the safety of the family home. He is astonishingly – one could argue heedlessly – outspoken. He challenges the Taliban repeatedly at public events. He admits boys and girls to the school, equally. He is undeterred by threats. In one memorable scene from the book, the local Taliban mullah, accompanied by village leaders, pays an evening call on the Yousafzai home to demand that Ziauddin stop educating girls. Malala has a mind of her own and her own voice as well. She tells us, with humor, that her father is too romantic and idealistic and it is her mother, a pious, illiterate Pashtun woman, who keeps the family grounded. The book’s focus on her personal life and its challenges is the true story of Malala. The Taliban came to Swat Valley when she was ten years old. This book is a worthwhile read for the story of this remarkable young woman, whose life and contributions to the broader community are just beginning.
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