Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I Am Malala - Malala Yousafzai

I Am Malala:
The Story of the Girl Who
Stood Up for Education
and Was Shot by the Taliban
If you have not heard of Malala Yousafzai by now, I am surprised. The young Pakistani woman has taken the world by storm in the best way possible.

While other girls her age are getting famous for taking provocative pictures or singing about weekdays, Malala has been championing the cause of girls' education for years. Yes, that's right...years.

Like most people who know her story, I first became aware of Malala after she was shot in the face by a member of the Taliban. I followed her story loosely, becoming increasingly interested. Once she became the youngest person in history to win the Nobel Peace Prize this past fall, I knew I had to dig deeper and read her whole story.

When I started reading the book, Kevin asked why she was so important. He said, "What did she do besides getting shot? How did that earn her the Peace Prize?" Valid question. 

Turns out, this incredible young woman has, alongside her father, been speaking out for education for years. Unsurprising as her owns a school, education is highly valued in the Yousafzai home. Although her own mother did not learn to read and write until this fall, both parents understood this importance and value of education for both their daughter and their two younger sons.

As the Pakistani political situation has continued its roller coaster existence, Malala's father became an increasingly prominent figure in the conversation about girls' education in the country. Malala, as she grew up, started as an example and then became an eloquent, strong advocate herself. She has participated in a documentary about the subject, written a blog for the BBC, and worked for the reopening of girls' schools after the Taliban closed them in 2009. Even before she was shot, she was being nominated for and winning important peace prizes. Not least of these is the nomination Archbishop Desmond Tutu gave her for the 2011 International Children's Peace Prize. 

Basically, this amazing girl was doing more with her life at 12 than I had even dreamed at that age. 

As retribution for speaking out against them, the Taliban targeted Malala and her family. In 2012, the bus she was riding home from school was stopped. A gunman entered the back, asked her to identify herself, and shot her in the face. Two other girls also suffered less severe wounds.

Incredibly, Malala survived. She ended up being taken to the UK in order to save her life and give her a chance at rehabilitation. She and her family continue to live there today and her activism for the cause has only increased since the assassination attempt. 

Reading her story, it's easy to forget that she is still a child. Even now, she is only 17. She speaks with determination and maturity above her years. Granted, the things she has been through already are far more than most people ever face. 

I strongly, strongly recommend reading her memoir. If, for no other reason, than to educate yourself about what is going on in Pakistan. I have to admit, I was largely unaware of the turmoil in that region, or, at least, the details of it. The book taught me so much about not only the troubles, but also the beautiful aspects of the culture and the people there. 

On a smaller side note, it was also refreshing to read a book written by someone of such a different background than me. Malala is a devout Muslim and, obviously, was raised in far different circumstances than I was. Despite our differences, it was our similarities that spoke to me most. It was a wonderful reminder that we are all in this together, no matter our background or beliefs. I want to read more books by people who come from different backgrounds and approaches to life. I don't ever want to be trapped in a mindset of exclusivity when it comes to issues that impact people around the globe, such as education.

Again, I cannot encourage you enough to pick up this book and learn more about this young woman. Just think - she is only getting started!

Pages: 327
Date Completed: December 25, 2014

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