I am Malala – Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

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“He says he looked into my eyes and fell in love. He told people, ‘I know there is something special about this child’.” This is how the book describes Ziauddin Yousafzai’s reaction on the birth of his daughter Malala.

I Am Malala

Her name is Malala Yousafzai, named after Malalai of Maiwand, the greatest heroine of Afghanistan, and this is her story. The story of her nation, her society, her valley, her education and her struggle, the story of a 16 year old Pakistani girl. The world knows her today as ‘the girl who was shot by the Taliban’ but she wants to be thought of as ‘the girl who fought for education’ and her fight continues.

The story describes the Swat Valley in Pakistan in all its paradisiacal beauty and glory. For once it seems like a little girl is describing a beautiful village when things like politics, corruption and nuclear power take over. The story is beautifully woven in a chronological order of events and touches upon the roots of Taliban and all the changes that appeared one after the other. It is an honest first-hand account of how the world was, the way it changed and how things have come to their current state.

Malala is described as a cheerful young girl who loves to read and go to school, she prays sincerely,   fights with her brother and best-friend, competes to come first in class, enjoys styling her hair and loves her parents the most. She grows into a good writer and speaker who understands the importance of education and is interested in politics just like her father. The life in her valley changes as a result of many factors including a massive earthquake, 9/11, the unrest in neighbouring Afghanistan, the manipulation of religion by a few people and the ignorance of others and the inactivity of the Government. Then there is the Taliban and their clash with the army, followed by a large number of killings, internal displacements, destruction and bombings. There’s fear everywhere  and life becomes hell. There are strict codes of conduct in the name of Islam and a ban on education for girls. Malala and her father keep up their fight through all this and that is how Malala comes to be a target and is shot in the head by the Taliban on her way back from school.

The book reveals a childish innocence in some places and immense sensitivity and wisdom in others. At times I didn’t feel that a young girl is narrating the story, it felt like someone is giving me a practical, world view of the state of affairs. It is full of facts and information and personal feelings at the same time. It echoes the plight of a nation, of humanity, at the behest of human and natural disasters, summed up best in these lines: ‘If there is a snake and a lion coming to attack us what would we say is good, the snake or the lion?’

Malala’s story is important, powerful and brilliantly written and it’s out there for every human being to know and feel.

Prachi Seksaria

Photographer and ardent reader. Blogs at http://storiesthatshapeme.wordpress.com/

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