The book is equal parts history lesson and autobiography, charting the parallel courses of the frightening rise of the Taliban in Pakistan and the inspiring work of Malala and her father in their passionate fight for access to education. The historical information Malala provides serves as an important contextual backdrop for the unfolding story of her near infamous encounter with Taliban soldiers, a shocking climax to a story that offers a rare, surprising, yet refreshingly honest and open, portrayal of life under Taliban rule.
While the story centres around and charts the aftermath of Malala’s shooting, the book is as much an ode to Malala’s love for her country, her education, and her family. She writes with a wisdom and maturity that gently yet overwhelmingly reminds the reader of the privilege surrounding the choices provided in where one goes to school, what one chooses to study, and if one chooses to pursue formal education at all. Something so many in the Western world take for granted, and often complain about, is written about with an air of respect, reverence, and awe, offering a powerful insight into what it truly means to fight for freedom. Malala also writes lovingly about her family and her country, showing a very human and vulnerable side to customs and a culture others may not understand and that some may shy away from or even condemn.
As a female who has made a living in education, and who has pursued several degrees of my own, this book was especially profound. Malala writes about seeing children, a little boy and a young girl, digging through garbage and immediately wants to secure them a place in her father’s school. Her father tells her, surprisingly, that these children are the breadwinners of their family. Without their work, the family would starve. Education, then, was (and is) both a privilege and a luxury to children like these. Combined with insights into Taliban ideals & beliefs, this scenario highlights a deeply moving and startling insight into what it could mean to be female who, by a mere accident of birth, is born in a country on nearly the other side of the world.
There is a lot to take in here, and a lot of great dialogue waiting to be had. I’d love to know what you thought about the book – what inspired you, what confused you, and even what may have angered or saddened you. Let’s connect on Twitter via #sareads or directly at @lmendersby.