Review: I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai & Christina Lamb

November 19, 2013
Author: Malala Yousafzai & Christina Lamb
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Year: 2013
ISBN: 9780297870920
Rating: ★★★★☆
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I Am Malala tells the inspiring story of a schoolgirl who was determined not to be intimidated by extremists, and faced the Taliban with immense courage. Malala speaks of her continuing campaign for every girl’s right to an education, shining a light into the lives of those children who cannot attend school. This is just the beginning…

I knew  about Malala from some basic news articles when I decided to read her autobiography. Although I was tempted to know more about her from various other sources, I decided to hear it from the horse’s mouth first so as to avoid any inconsistencies or rumors that news articles might have. Malala’s story, her portrayal of events grabs you right from the very first line. It pulls you in and you read on wanting to know more about this girl who went through so much at such a young age.

The language is simple yet distinct in its own capacity. Having been written by two authors, I wasn’t sure who would come through, Malala or Christina Lamb. But I could recognize glimpses of Malala’s writing every so often, so I knew it was she who had the lion’s share in writing her biography. How did I know it was her writing? Some sentences might seem strange when you go by strict English rules but look at it from the perspective of another language (I found Pashto quite close to Hindi and hence knew what it was the sentence wanted to depict) and you will know what it really meant. Those sentences made me smile and I knew it was all Malala. Sample this:

‘With all the bad stuff going on in those days, we needed small, small reasons to laugh.’

The innocence, the simplicity of the language further drove home the point.

I marvel at the memory of this little girl, so vivid and clear. It gives me something to look at, think about and feel. I know what she is going through because her words have so much power, they pack a punch. The book has been organized very well, it’s structured and helps the reader go through events as they occurred which is no mean feat.

Looking at this big, bad, violent world from the eyes of a girl who wanted nothing more than education was revealing and haunting in a way. It made me cringe at times. The horrors she had seen, went through might have been too much even for an adult. And for her to not only have gone through them but for coming out stronger shows her capacity for tolerance and her ambition for education.

At times, the horrors created by the Taliban were too much to bear and I wondered why, oh why, did no one interfere. It was as if so many things were going on together. Everyone wanted a piece of the cake but no one wanted to help bake it. It bordered on crazy.

The interference by the Western media and governments felt to some extent relieving and helpful but at the same time, I wondered if it did not land Malala in more trouble. By writing for the BBC, giving interviews, she was exposed much more to the eyes of the Taliban and kept growing as an imminent threat. It made me wonder: Was the Western media merely sensationalizing and serving its own purpose rather than coming over for providing help? It will be difficult to separate the good from the not so good.

Malala often talks about her parents and brothers, most of all, her father. Knowing her background helps in understanding how she came to be who she is now. The photographs further lend a one-of-our-own feeling towards Malala and her family.

I am Malala serves as an innocent yet informed account of the terrors in Pakistan penned down from a teenage girl’s viewpoint. Although the language is simple and easy to understand, it in no way renders the book incapable of being serious or well thought through. The book taught me more than any history lessons ever could. The account of events is brief yet startling in its capacity. I believe some of the information about the events might have been written by Christina Lamb but overall it gives a good background to Malala’s story.

The book has been compared to Anne Frank’s diary. Even though I have read The Diary of Anne Frank twice, it has been years since I last read it. Hence, I might not be well qualified to elaborately comment on their comparison. But let me say that ‘I am Malala’ holds her own as far as truth in her writing is concerned. However, it might get its real credit in the years to come when people might not remember all the details about the internal wars in Pakistan but her book will live on and stay to tell the truth.

Overall, if you are looking forward to reading a brief yet truthful account of what went on inside Pakistan as seen from a teenager’s account, I would highly recommend this book.

If you wish to know more about Malala’s mission, click here : Malala Fund. You can also read The Guardian Book Review and The Washington Post Review of the book.

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  • richasingh November 19, 2013 at 4:48 AM

    Interesting review, especially Malala herself penning down words. Comparing her with frank is a bit too far. But nevertheless her achievement is still remarkable!

    • Mugdha November 19, 2013 at 6:31 AM

      I thought Laura Bush (who mentioned Anne Frank in conjunction with Malala here: ) was going a bit too far, too…. and I wonder just how much of an agenda the Western media/establishment has, with these things. I mean, the BBC literally went searching for a girl in the ‘terror zone’ to write a blog for them – it wasn’t her own idea to write it, it was solicited. Everyone involved, including her father who made her take on the job, obviously knew what was expected here – a little girl, the voice of innocence, speaking against the big bad wolf.

      I’m not saying Malala hasn’t been through a terrible time. What she had to go through was terrible, unforgivable, and her attackers need to be punished thoroughly. But who got her into the situation in the first place? The very people who are hailing her now as a little heroine who should have got the Nobel Prize.

      • richasingh November 20, 2013 at 5:29 AM

        I cannot help but agree with you 10 % . Not to demean her actions in any way but how uncannily uncommon it is for a girl in as backward area as SWAT valley writing a blog for BBC!! This surely looked like an understood settlement. And now making her a nobel prize nominee and all the rest hublaboo is getting too much for most of us.

        • Mugdha November 21, 2013 at 4:09 AM

          She just won the Sakharov Prize :)…….

          • richasingh November 22, 2013 at 6:52 AM

            This will be a regular activity… you wait and see…


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