book number eleven of 2016: i am malala [malala yousafzai w/christina lamb].

most people in the world – and especially any who work in education – know who malala is. she is the staunch advocate for girls’ education who was shot in the head by the taliban when she was 15, because they saw her as a threat. she is the nobel peace prize winner who delivered a stunning talk to the united nations on her 16th birthday. and she is the young woman who, in spite of being denied a return to her homeland, continues to work tirelessly to advocate for girls’ education and to build schools for girls in the most remote areas of the world.

i first heard of malala when i was preparing for my grad school project with room to read’s girls’ education program. it is nearly impossible to spend any time researching girls’ education without coming across her name, the girl from pakistan’s swat valley who stood up to the taliban and fought for her right to an education. i loosely followed her speeches and interviews, and she was shot just as i was wrapping up my room to read project in kathmandu. it was a startling event made more so because i had just spent two months interviewing hundreds of girls and their parents about their fight to stay in school.

to all the girls who have faced injustice and been silenced. together we will be heard.

in i am malala, malala recounts pakistan’s political history, her early life growing up in the swat valley, and what life was like after the taliban came to town. she writes about her father’s push for equal education for girls and how his example encouraged her to join the fight and speak out herself. by the age of 12 she was giving interviews and being featured in documentaries about having to flee her home, and when she was 14 she was giving speeches and meeting with diplomats and advocates to continue her fight.

as her life became more public, however, so did the spotlight surrounding her. with every speech and appearance, the taliban became more and more aware of malala and her message, and they were scared. they were scared of a 15-year-old girl, because she was talking about educating girls. so one october morning in 2012, they ambushed the school van she was riding in and shot her in the head.

following her shooting, malala received treatment and rehabilitation services in birmingham, england, where her family continues to reside because of the dangers surrounding a return to pakistan. from there malala and her supporters have established the malala fund, dedicated to fighting for universal education for all children around the world, but especially for girls.

education is education. we should learn everything and then choose which path to follow. education is neither easter nor western, it is human.

i will admit, i had my ups-and-downs with this book. i was hoping for a look at malala’s life and how she is using her fund to create change around the world. i know they have built schools in sub-saharan africa and are providing free education for many girls around the world, and i wanted to learn more about that. instead, the first half of the book was about pakistan’s political and social history and the unrest in the swat valley. i understand that these are important factors in how and why malala became such a staunch advocate for girls’ education, but i found it quite dry. the information i was after, the reason i read this book, took up barely the last one-third of the book, and that was the part i sailed through.

ideally this book would have been published in another five years. malala will be in her mid-20s, and we will have a much better idea of the work the malala fund has done and how it is impacting global education. i couldn’t help feeling that this book was a little premature.

i also need to manage my own expectations better. i was looking for something more along the lines of john wood’s leaving microsoft to change the world, and that’s not what this book was. so that bit is on me.

my goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 // average rating is 4.02

xx

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