It has been a little while since I posted a book review! Back to school really cut into my reading time, but I am back on track nowadays and excited to share my take on this and several other upcoming reads.
For those of you who might have missed it, Malala Yousafzai is a young advocate for girl’s education who grew up in Pakistan and was shot by the Taliban in 2012. Since then she has continued to fight for girl’s rights to education, and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for her fearless efforts. Her autobiography was published in 2015, and the school I work at assigned it as one of our summer reading books this year.
Let me start by saying that I really enjoyed this book because I felt like I really learned a lot from it. As a decidedly western reader, I was impressed with this book’s ability to explain Pashtun culture and Pakistani politics in a concise, clear way. As I was reading, I realized how little I actually knew about the history of Pakistan and the challenges faced by the citizens there. I’m a news watcher and reader, so I thought I knew a lot about Pakistan, since I’ve followed conflicts in Middle East for most of my life. But as I read, I came to the realization that everything I knew was from the point of view of the US Military and News Media. Malala’s perspective was new to me, and I really appreciated the deeply human, deeply relatable point of view offered.
The early chapters of the book walk through Malala’s family’s background, and I personally found this part to be slow and hard to engage with. Once Malala got into her own experiences, though, I couldn’t stop reading. I loved how she wove normal childhood challenges like fighting with a friend or wanting a good grade on a test into the political side of the story. As a teacher, I loved reading about the dynamic within Malala’s class at school, and I loved learning more about how a little girl became a worldwide activist.
One of the most interesting aspects of the book was Malala’s descriptions of her country’s progress towards Talibanization. The story goes through the rise of Fazlullah’s radio station, which preached extremism and became especially popular after a series of natural disasters left the people of Pakistan desperate for hope and inspiration. Like any ethical person, I have never understood how anyone can commit an act of terrorism in the name of a god who teaches peace and humility. This book dives into how desperation, fear, and ongoing political instability allowed the Taliban to rise to power.
When the story finally arrived at the day of the attack and Malala’s months of recovery, it was nearly impossible to put the book down. By the time I got to the climactic event, I found that I was emotionally invested in the safety of Malala and her family, which I feel is the mark of a well-told story.
My main criticism of the book is the same one that most people have; there were times in the book where I wanted to hear more of Malala’s voice and less of her co-author, Christina Lamb’s. It was important for the political information presented throughout the book to be accurate and carefully worded, so I totally understand why a co-author was brought in to work with the then-teenaged Malala. I just loved the simplicity and innocence embedded in the sections that were directly from Malala’s mind that I missed them during the more involved, co-authored sections, if that makes sense.
I think this is a book that everyone should consider right now. As an American, I find that it’s all too easy to misunderstand cultures that aren’t our own. After all, our biggest export is our culture! Reading about Malala’s daily life and evolution as an activist gave me what I feel is an important glimpse into a culture I did not know enough about before.
Now You Tell Me…
- What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
- Any good weekend plans?