Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
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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.