Illustration by Maria Morosovska
Book review by Michelle-Andrea Girouard
From the Spring 2014 Issue
Strange masked men roam the streets with rifles slung over their shoulders, killing two or three citizens a day. Dozens of familiar faces are murdered in suicide bombings or shootings, only no one calls it murder since the local radio station says it’s God’s will. Girls are denied education and restricted to the inside of their homes. There is no television, music or activity to pass the time for fear that it will “westernize” the population. Poverty is everywhere. Corruption rules the state and it seems as though the government has abandoned its people.
These are a few of the horrifying things Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year-old Pakistani girl, describes in her autobiography, I Am Malala, co-written with The Sunday Times’ foreign correspondent Christina Lamb. By now, most of the world knows Yousafzai as “the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban,” as the subtitle reads, but her book reveals that she is so much more. The 2013 book highlights her remarkable character—intelligence, unfaltering perseverance and passion for education—as well as her bravery in the face of a direct threat from the Taliban. As one of the British doctors who treated her head wound said, she is “Pakistan’s Mother Teresa.”
More than an autobiography, the best-selling book is a historical account of the incessant political struggles that the young Pakistan has faced since its inception. The text delves deep into the day-to-day horrors and violence that occurs in the country, which continue to be ignored by North American media. Yousafzai explains these issues and the history of Pakistan using simple words and sentences, so even an uninformed reader can understand.
Yousafzai uses the power of the pen, as her father would say, and attempts to answer the difficult questions many politicians and experts are asking—for instance, why corruption prevails in the country and how civilians fall into extremism and violence. Throughout, she openly criticizes South Asia’s political leaders, as well as the United States and its military. Yet her solution to Pakistan’s problems is simple: only through children’s education can the future generation think independently and critically. So at the age of 11, Yousafzai began her crusade for justice and education. As she states in the book, “this is the war I was going to fight.”
Admittedly, I Am Malala is far from a literary masterpiece. Besides the minor grammatical errors and missing punctuation, the beginning lacks substance and failed to grasp my attention. Understandably, there is only so much the now 17-year-old can say about her life, so Lamb and Yousafzai fill the empty spaces with extensive history and her father’s experiences. Still, the extraordinary main character and her incredible story make up for what the book lacks. I Am Malala is both a heroic tale of activism and a reminder that education and privilege should never be taken for granted. M