“I Am Malala” (ISBN 978-0-316-40346-7, Little, Brown and Company, 2013) is the biography of the Pakistani teenage girl who was shot in the head point blank by the Taliban. Yet she survived and recovered well enough to be a young heroine and female role model and address the world from the podium at the United Nations.
The opening chapters give an excellent insight to village life in the Swat Valley, and the divisions between clans and the inferior station of women. Her own mother is illiterate, whilst her father was a teacher.
Her story continues through the invasion by the Taliban and their imposition of strict Islamic laws – or their interpretation of the Quran. She outlines how with the sharia, “The boys learn the Quran by heart, rocking back and forth as they recite. They learn that there is no such thing as science or literature, that dinosaurs never existed and man never went to the moon.”
She shows just how useless were the resulting attacks and financial aid given to Pakistan by the Americans. Aid that was being pilfered and then what was left given to the terrorists to buy more weapons.
Malala describes the time under the Taliban atrocities and how girls’ schools were targeted, with the edict on January 15, 2008 that all schools for girls were to be closed. She wrote, “Though we loved school, we hadn’t realized how important education was until the Taliban tried to stop us. Going to school, reading and doing our homework wasn’t just a way of passing time, it was our future.”
At one stage, the comparison is made between Anne Frank, the 13 year old in Nazi Germany, and Malala in Taliban Swat Valley. It is a very real comparison.
Malala writes on how her home, the Swat Valley had been over-run by the Taliban, then by the government Army soldiers and then by the CIA with their drone attacks. It would seem there was little to choose from any of these administrations.
Towards the end of the book, the pace builds up to the point when she is shot and is taken out by medivac helicopter and operated upon by two neurosurgeons. While hovering between life and death, the Taliban claimed the responsibility for the attack, saying that Malala was shot because of her pro-western views.
The fight to get her out of Pakistan and into a neurosurgical unit in the UK will bring tears to your eyes.
It really is a very harrowing story, but one that is told beautifully by Malala and co-writer Christina Lamb. A very powerful and moving book.
At B. 545, this is a book everyone should read, and dwell upon, and answer the questions it raises about how correct is political correctness? Cultures may differ, but murder and subjugation are really too much for me to accept in this day and age.
An epic story that cries out to be adapted to the silver screen. People like this girl give you faith to carry on, as despite the enormity of your own problems, they pale into insignificance compared to hers.