Book Review: I am Malala by Malala Yousafzhai

I had heard Malala’s story before, in magazine articles and at school, and I decided it was about time I read her memoir. I’m really glad I did.

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Rating: 5/5 stars

Favorite quote: ““Life isn’t just about taking in oxygen and giving out carbon dioxide.”

I had heard Malala’s story before, in magazine articles and at school, and I decided it was about time I read her memoir. I’m really glad I did. There are two editions of her book: the young reader’s version and the full version. I read the full version.

Malala is an incredible person, and I was amazed by her bravery and sheer dedication to her cause. She was born on July 12th, 1997, and grew up in Swat Valley, Pakistan. Malala knew from a young age that she wanted to be a politician so she could change the world for the better. Captivated by books and learning, she loved going to school and was usually top of her class. In Pakistan, girls had always been discouraged from going to school because they were expected to stay home and take care of the men. But as the Taliban, a radical Islamist terror group, began to take control of the region, it became even more dangerous for Malala to attend class. Encouraged by her father, a school principal and influential activist, Malala spoke out and advocated for girl’s rights to education. She wrote an anonymous blog in 2009, documenting the Taliban takeover, and used her talent for public speaking to raise awareness. She even starred in a New York Times documentary. The situation in Pakistan continued to deteriorate, though, and the Taliban started bombing girl’s schools around the country. In 2012, Malala and her father were forced to step out of the spotlight because they had been receiving death threats. Then, on the bus home from school one day later that year, Malala was shot in the head.

She miraculously recovered, and became the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. Now, she lives in the UK and studies philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford.

Her memoir was really inspiring, and made me think about how valuable the right to education and free speech is. Living in the US, I haven’t ever had these rights taken away. As Malala writes, “We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.” I also appreciated her explanation of Pakistan’s history and Muslim culture, because it gave important context to her story. Although I’m not very interested in politics, it was different to read about historical events like 9/11 and the War on Terror from the perspective of someone living in Pakistan. I love reading memoirs written by influential people like Malala because they are really inspiring and open my eyes to important issues: in this case, freedom of speech, religion, and education, and the importance of tolerance and nonviolence. Definitely read this book!

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