So, the class I was subbing for was reading I am Malala (the Young Readers Edition) and as I was reading a good portion of it anyway, I decided to read the whole thing! Malala Yousfzai is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. She spoke up to change the fate of children’s education, especially for girls in her native Pakistan.
So my journey through this started with Chapter 14 – 16, then 1-8, 17-19, 9-13, then the rest of the book. But it kind of works out, because the Prologue and the beginning chapters start later in Malala’s life anyway and then go back 5 years.
When she is young, Malala’s father is the founder and principal of a school in Mingora, a city in the Swat Valley in Pakistan. The family is not wealthy, but they manage to keep their family fed and the school staff paid. Malala is lucky in that her father and mother encourage her academic pursuits in a country where women are seen as lesser citizens. Education is important to the family, and especially Malala. She adores school, and when it starts to be taken away from her, she will not stand for it.
Malala tells of how the Taliban gradually gained power in her area of Pakistan. A devastating earthquake hit the area, and the first to offer aid to the people is not the government, but the TNSM, a group that wants sharia, or religious law enforced. The eventual leader of the group starts preaching jihad (religious war) through the radio, and people listen. People are killed every day and there is constant fighting between the Taliban and the Pakistan army. But life continues on for Malala, her friends, and her family. Malala is impacted most by the rules forced upon women. The Taliban want women to remain indoors, to constantly be accompanied by male family members, and to not go to school. Malala’s father and eventually Malala herself give interviews to local and national news stations, and Malala at age eleven starts a diary about the conditions in Pakistan. These put both of them at risk. They are featured in a New York Times documentary, which gains international attention for their situation. The government offers a peace treaty and enforcement of sharia if the Taliban stops fighting, and the treaty is broken almost immediately. The Taliban becomes more bold. The fighting becomes worse, then better, then worse again. Malala continues to speak in defense of education for girls, and travels internationally to do so. She gains so much attention that she is threatened, by name, by the Taliban.
In an effort to silence her, Malala is shot in the head on October 9, 2012 on her way home from school. She and her two injured classmates survive. Instead of silencing her, her attempted murder gains international attention and support. While the story goes on after she is shot, the rest of the book feels like a giant epilogue to me, especially after she leaves the hospital. It moves very quickly, and we don’t seem to get very many details. Once recovered, she speaks in front of the United Nations. She meets celebrities and world leaders, and even expresses her displeasure of US drone strikes to President Obama! Oh, and she gets the Nobel Peace PRize somewhere in there. She has a new live in Birmingham, England, because it is too dangerous for her to go home, but she misses her home and continues to keep in contact with her friends. (Update: according to her episode on David Letterman’s Netflix show, she’s enrolled at Oxford University now!) (Update: she went back to Pakistan for a visit!)
I’m wondering what is different between the real version of the book and the Young Readers Edition. Are there more specific descriptions of violence that are cut out? Or do they water down the politics? One thing I felt was missing was exactly what Malala was saying in her speeches and interviews. We get a taste of it, but not enough to make a huge impact on me. Basically, “I’m a girl and I love to learn, and I, and all children, should have the right to do so,” is the basic gist I’m getting. Yes, she starts interviews very young, but her words obviously had more of an impact than what came across in the book.