Book Review by Ann Jonas, Tradebook Buyer - CSB/SJU Bookstores
this review was published in the St. Cloud Visitor
"I Am Malala: the Girl Who Stood up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban" by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb; Little, Brown and Company; October 2013; 352 pp.; $26.00
October 9, 2012 started out like most school days in the life of fifteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai. She attended class at the school founded by her father and had taken exams for most of the day. Her school was within walking distance from her home but Malala rode the bus, as her parents felt it was safer than walking. On her way home, the bus was ambushed by two men who asked for her and then shot her in the head at point-blank range. "I Am Malala" is the amazing story of young Malala's inspirational life and her remarkable recovery from the gunshot wounds.
Malala and her family lived in the Swat Valley of northern Pakistan, an area that had been in the grasp of the Taliban since 2007, but was proclaimed by the Pakistani prime minister to be Taliban-free since the middle of 2009. Her family took precautions nonetheless, as the Taliban opposed schooling for girls and Malala was attending and thriving in school.
The oldest of three children and her parents' only daughter, Malala loved learning and understood the value of an education. Her parents were champions of education for both girls and boys; her father had allowed a number of poor children to attend his schools for free. He often spoke out publicly against the Taliban and criticized the unwillingness of the Pakistani government to fight the Taliban. Malala was encouraged by her parents to write and speak in favor of education for all children and had been interviewed by the BBC and other national and international news organizations to promote education for girls. In 2011 she won Pakistan's National Youth Peace Prize and was a nominee for the International Children's Peace Prize for her courage in speaking out for education. While traveling to a speaking engagement in 2011, Malala saw a young girl selling oranges and keeping track of what she sold by scratching marks on a piece of paper as she could not read or write. "I took a photo of her and vowed I would do everything in my power to help educate girls just like her," Malala declared.
All the publicity from her speaking engagements had attracted attention and death threats from the Taliban toward Malala and her father; the Taliban still had an obvious presence in their village. As a result, Malala no longer walked anywhere alone, and rode a rickshaw to school and a bus home from school. Still, she continued to attend classes every day, up until the day she was shot. The bullet that shot Malala went through her left eye socket and out under her left shoulder. She was immediately taken to the nearest hospital, but was quickly transported by helicopter to a hospital with better facilities. On October 15, Malala was flown to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England so that she could get the extensive rehabilitation she needed.
News of Malala's shooting soon reached all corners of the world. Malala became a symbol of hope and inspiration to all who heard her story. Since recovering, she has addressed the United Nations, and called on the world's leaders to provide free education to every child in the world.
"I Am Malala" is a book that teens and adults will find meaningful. It offers a glimpse into the lives of a Pakistani teenager and her family and the difficulties of living in a country that is in the clutches of extremists. It certainly will make readers a bit more thankful for the educational opportunities we are afforded in this country. The book demonstrates what can happen when one small voice speaks up to inspire change in our world.