Friday, August 21, 2015

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, Christina Lamb

So, I picked up this book in March for my step-father, but ended up giving him another book instead. He likes biographies and autobiographies, so I thought Malala would be a good fit for him. It was also 30% off at Target, so…. of course I got it. I kept it when I gave him another book and finally got around to reading it. 

Malala is one of the most famous activists for education out there today. She is the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize, which is quite remarkable considering where she grew up and her culture. Her parents, despite their conservative culture, are progressive people. Her father is a teacher and a principal, and has a vision to extend schooling for all children in the Swat Valley. Even before the Taliban infiltrated her village and Pakistan, Urdu culture firmly believed in Purdah, and the idea that women should be segregated from society and wear the burqa. However, her father has ambition for Malala and together, they pioneer and give education, and girl’s education, a voice. Unfortunately, this also made her family, especially her and her father, a target for the Taliban. She was shot along with two classmates on her way to school due to her activism.

Even though Malala’s story is sensational, and her recovery to becoming one of the most well known voices is also sensational, her book falls flat. Even though I had a lot going on these past few weeks (Reflection Wednesday is coming out soon!), this book took me a while to get through. Malala had a co-writer, by the name of Christina Lamb, and it really shows. The book leaps from explanations of Pakistan history and politics, including the emergence of the Taliban, to her history and her experiences growing up. The books also delves into her parent's backgrounds along with her village. It seems like Lamb was trying to give context and a background to Malala's fight for education, but instead of sounding like a 16 year old girl, it sounded like a foreign journalist who involved Malala so her writing could have a personal touch.

I found myself zoning out to many of the political and historical parts of the book, (even though I am a history and political science person!) because Lamb didn't really tell Pakistan's history that well. I found myself drawn towards Malala's personal journey along with that of her father's. It would have been nice to break apart the sections of history and Malala's history so we could see the micro and the macro of the situation leading up to her being targeted by the Taliban.

The last 50 pages, when she is shot, I thought was the most riveting part of the book and I also thought they were the most "her" throughout the entire book. The way she describes the Pakistan hospitals are terrifying and I also particularly was interested in how Britain was involved for her recovery. I also found it was interesting that her family was kept in the dark about Malala, along with everyone visiting her for political gain. I found it was very sad that many Pakistanis were negative towards her, but she alluded to jealousy, which doesn't sound far fetched.

Overall, I wished there was more of Malala's philosophy and ideals behind her becoming an activist. She's a huge credit to her parents, who pushed her and believed in her, despite her being a girl. Malala is very lucky to be born to a father who was progressive despite his culture and he wanted the best for all of his children, either gender. I felt like Lamb should have narrowed down on her lecture on Pakistani history, because it was told in her voice, not Malala's. I would have liked Malala to discuss her religion, which she touched on at the end of the book, but was absent for most of it.
I'm interested to see what Malala does for her life. She is 18 (I think) now, and I'm not sure if she is going to go to University or not. She was incredibly invested in school and though her work as an activist is strong, I would like to read about her going to school.

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