By now I guess most people have heard of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for daring to go to school and speak out about girls’ right to an education. This very readable memoir tells Malala’s story in her own words, situating her tragedy and triumph in the place she comes from. The reader will learn a lot about the Swat Valley area of Pakistan, the Pashtun culture into which Malala was born, and the way in which the Taliban gradually gained power in the region. We also get to know Malala’s family, particularly her father who is obviously a major influence in her life and was crusading for the right of young people of both genders to be educated before Malala was even born. It’s clear as the story unfolds that Malala gets her activism from her father but also that her desire to get an education and to speak out for her right to do so came naturally from the person she is. The other thing that came through quite clearly to me in her story is that even though Malala is a crusader and has been caught up in political and religious conflicts that many adults don’t even fully understand, she is also a teenaged girl. At the time she was shot (at age 15) her life consisted of going to school and giving interviews and speeches about the importance of education, but it also consisted of competing for top grades with the other smartest girl in her class, worrying about her physics exam, arguing and making up with her best friend and her brother, and comparing her life to that of characters in the Twilight novels.
Anyone who’s heard Malala’s story and wants to know more about what happened to her, and see her story in the context of what’s happening in Pakistan today, would enjoy reading this book.