on October 8th 2013
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
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Set in Pakistan
I come from a country that was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday.
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.
On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her 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 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls' education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.
For the last week of Nonfiction November, there is a discussion of the group read, I Am Malala over at Doing Dewey.
1. What did you think of the tone and style in which I Am Malala was written?
While the story is interesting and important, I don’t think that this is a very good book. It is very choppy. That is probably because it is written in collaboration with a teenager and an adult coauthor. While you can’t be sure who wrote what, there are definitely style changes in the book between when she is talking about things that happened directly to her and her family and when the background history is being laid out.
Another confusing point is that there is a young readers edition of this book that has the same name. I originally got that one from the library by mistake. I read a little bit of that one and it didn’t seem so disjointed.
2. What did you think of the political commentary in the book?
The commentary is what I would expect from someone who has gone through what this family has. I hadn’t realized that her father had run a private school that allowed girls to study. He used Malala as an example of what education could do for girls. She spoke to the media and had an anonymous column on a website about education for girls. That’s why she was considered a target.
I think that the background of the situation that is included in this book is very important. It shows how little decisions in the lives of the people can add up to big changes over time. The thing I found most scary is the story of how an uneducated guy in town got a radio show and started espousing ideas that a lot of the population adopted to the eventual detriment of the whole society. That can so easily happen here too.
3. Did anything particularly surprise you about Malala’s daily life or culture?
The emphasis on honor and getting revenge for every slight made me sad. That is such a horrible way to live. There can’t be any peace if you can’t ever forgive.
I was struck by her assertion that Pakistanis love conspiracy theories. She mentions that people don’t necessarily believe that she was shot. Just reading the reviews on Goodreads supports this. Some are really nasty about how it was all made up.
4. Do you think you would act similarly to Malala in her situation? If you were her parents, would you let her continue to be an activist despite possible danger?
I don’t think her parents let her be an activist. Her father made her be an activist. He was using her as a face and a voice of his defiance of the Taliban. I don’t think that he thought that they would do anything to a kid. I think it was hardest for him when she was shot because he realized that he had focused the attention of the Taliban on her and hadn’t set up any of the security protocols that he had for himself.
I think it was good and brave to stand up the brutality and anti-intellectualism that was sweeping over their country. I’m not sure that I would have been able to be so open in my defiance knowing what the regime was doing to dissidents.
5. What did you think of the book overall?
I think this book should have waited a few years. It ends rather abruptly. There have been other interesting things in her life that would have added to the story. Publishing this book so quickly doesn’t allow enough time to pass to be able to discuss what happened in response to her shooting. I would have preferred to read a book written about five to ten years after the shooting to see what impact it had. Then the book wouldn’t have had to be padded so much when the shooting could be the beginning of the story instead of the end.