This is my third time participating in the Cannonball Read and until now there has been only one non-fiction review, so it was easy to choose what genre was “not my wheelhouse” for CBR10 Bingo. As my ten year old daughter is reading I Am Malala, and I’m trying to read what she is reading, this was a perfect fit.
Before reading this book, I had very little knowledge of Malala beyond she was an advocate of girls education and had survived an attack from the Taliban. Malala is very fortunate to have a progressive father, Ziauddin, and a supportive mother, Toor Pekai. She was raised in a household that valued learning and was proud of her academic achievements. Ziauddin founded and ran the Kushal school in their home town of Mingora. From an early age Malala loved being in school and as a toddler would give lectures to empty classrooms, while her father went about the business of running the school.
Malala grew up aware of how lucky she is to have parents that hold education in high regard and a father who values her highly. She is passionate about learning and keenly feels that all children should be able to attend school, especially girls. Growing up watching her father’s activism in promoting education inspired Malala. From an early age she has been giving interviews about the importance of education for girls. In 2009 she chose to take an opportunity to blog about life in the Swat, her region of Pakistan, during the occupation of the Taliban. Malala did so anonymously but was accidentally outed by her own father. It was not long after that a New York Times documentary chronicling her life during the fighting in the Swat valley was released. From that point forward her prominence grew as she gave more interviews, received awards, and was even featured on television advocating for girls’ right to education. Her outspoken views made her a target of the Taliban and in 2012 she, along with two fellow school girls, were shot on the way home from school. Despite hardships, living through war and being internally displaced, all before being shot, Malala maintains her faith and sees a greater plan to her life. She is as inspiring as the legend that precedes her.
Through it all Malala was a young girl who continued to have squabbles with her best friend Moniba, fought with her brothers over the TV remote and was distraught when television watching had to be hidden and then was cut off entirely, and relished the rivalry with fellow student, Malka-e-Noor, who drove Malala to work hard to try and maintain top of the class. This is a side of her that doesn’t come through on news sound bites.
Beyond learning who Malala is as a person, this book was also eye opening in the timeline of events and how the terrorist groups got a foothold in Pakistan resulting in so much bloodshed. In 2005 we moved from Michigan to California, it was a chaotic year but I do remember hearing about the earthquakes in Pakistan. 70,000 people lost their lives in the earthquake and its aftermath. The Pakistani government was slow to help and this was the door the Taliban used to cross from Afghanistan into Pakistan.
The insurgent groups were on the ground faster to help, especially those in remote areas. Along with help they also brought teachings that the people of Pakistan were to blame for the earthquake due to not living as proper Muslims. In a country where the majority of women haven’t been to school and boys often leave school early to care for their family, it’s easy to see how a people could be manipulated by the teachings that a natural disaster was the result of not adhering to religious principles.
This book was a good introduction to who Malala is and her remarkable story. As this is the “young readers” edition it was written to be accessible to a middle grade reader. An older reader interested in learning more about her should perhaps instead read I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban.