I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb, 2013
Little, Brown & Co.
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.
On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.
Instead, Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.
I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls' education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.
I Am Malala will make you believe in the power of one person's voice to inspire change in the world. (From the publisher.)
See the 2015 film—He Named Me Malala—with Malala Yousafzai as herself.
Listen to the Screen Thoughts podcast as Hollister and O'Toole compare book and movie.
• Birth—July 12, 1997
• Where—Mingora, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan
• Education—local public school
• Awards—Pakistan's National Youth Peace Prize; Sakharov Prize
• Currently—lives in Birmingham, England, UK
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani school pupil and education activist from the town of Mingora in the Swat District of Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. She is known for her education and women's rights activism in the Swat Valley, where the Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school.
In early 2009, at the age of 11–12, Yousafzai wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC detailing her life under Taliban rule, their attempts to take control of the valley, and her views on promoting education for girls. The following summer, a New York Times documentary was filmed about her life as the Pakistani military intervened in the region, culminating in the Second Battle of Swat. Yousafzai rose in prominence, giving interviews in print and on television, and she was nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize by South African activist Desmond Tutu.
On 9 October 2012, Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen while returning home on a school bus. In the days immediately following the attack, she remained unconscious and in critical condition, but later her condition improved enough for her to be sent to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, UK for intensive rehabilitation. On October 12, 2012, a group of 50 Islamic clerics in Pakistan issued a fatwa against those who tried to kill her, but the Taliban reiterated its intent to kill Yousafzai and her father.
The assassination attempt sparked a national and international outpouring of support for Yousafzai. Deutsche Welle wrote in January, 2013, that Malala may have become "the most famous teenager in the world." United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown launched a UN petition in Yousafzai's name, using the slogan "I am Malala" and demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015—a petition which helped lead to the ratification of Pakistan's first Right to Education Bill.
In the April 29, 2013, issue of Time magazine, Yousafzai was featured on the magazine's front cover and as one of "The 100 Most Influential People in the World." She was the winner of Pakistan's first National Youth Peace Prize and is currently nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize. On 12 July 2013, Yousafzai spoke at the UN to call for worldwide access to education, and in September 2013 she officially opened the Library of Birmingham.
Yousafzai was into a Sunni Muslim family of Pashtun ethnicity. She was given her first name Malala (meaning "grief stricken" after Malalai of Maiwand, a famous Pashtun poet and warrior woman from southern Afghanistan. Her last name, Yousafzai, is that of a large Pashtun tribal confederation that is predominant in Pakistan's Swat Valley, where she grew up. At her house in Mingora, she lived with her two younger brothers, her parents, and two pet chickens.
Yousafzai was educated in large part by her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who is a poet, school owner, and an educational activist himself, running a chain of schools known as the Khushal Public School. She once stated to an interviewer that she would like to become a doctor, though later her father encouraged her to become a politician instead. Ziauddin referred to his daughter as something entirely special, permitting her to stay up at night and talk about politics after her two brothers had been sent to bed.
Yousafzai started speaking about education rights as early as September 2008, when her father took her to Peshawar to speak at the local press club. "How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?" Yousafzai asked her audience in a speech covered by newspapers and television channels throughout the region. (From Wikiipedia. Retrieved 10/10/2013.)
The touching story will not only inform you of changing conditions in Pakistan, but inspire your rebellious spirit.
Matthew Love - Time Out New York
Ms. Yousafzai has single-handedly turned the issue of the right of girls--and all children--to be educated into headline news. And she is a figure worth hearing.
Isabel Berwick - Financial Times
On October 9, 2012, the teenaged Yousafzai was very nearly assassinated by members of the Taliban who objected to her education and women's rights activism in Pakistan. Currently, she lives in England, under threat of execution by the Taliban if she returns home. Lamb, who has been reporting from Pakistan for 26 years and was named Foreign Correspondent of the Year five times, helps Yousafzai tell her hugely significant story.
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:
• How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
• Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
• Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)
Also, consider these LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for I Am Malala:
1. Would you have had the bravery that Malala exhibited and continues to exhibit?
2. Talk about the role of Malala's parents, especially her father, Ziauddin. If you were her parents, would you have encouraged her to write and speak out?
3. How does Malala describe the affect of the growing Taliban presence in her region? Talk about the rules they imposed on the citizens in the Swat valley. What was life like?
4. Mala has said that despite the Taliban's restrictions against girls/women, she remains a proud believer. Would you—could you—maintain your faith given those same restrictions? *
5. Talk about the reaction of the international community after Malala's shooting. Has the outrage made a difference...has it had any effect?
6. What can be done about female education in the Middle East and places like Pakistan? What are the prospects? Can one girl, despite her worldwide fame, make a difference? Why does the Taliban want to prevent girls from acquiring an education—how do they see the female role? *
7. This is as good a time as any to talk about the Taliban's power in the Muslim world. Why does it continue to grow and attract followers...or is it gaining new followers? What attraction does it have for Muslim men? Can it ever be defeated?
(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)
* We received an email sharing the following perspective, which draws a clear distinction between the Muslim faith and Taliban practices. The email relates to Questions 4 and 6, respectively:
There is no "overt" Muslim prejudice against women. Although there are some customs in Islam specifically intended for women, these customs are for a reason. Everything has a reason. The Taliban, however, take things to a far new level. They overtly shed women of certain rights they deserve. There is a distinction between Islamic rules and customs and Taliban discrimination.
Muslims do not prevent women from acquiring an education. It is the Taliban that does so. Educating women is encouraged in Islam. One of the biggest Muslim scholars was in fact a woman.... Like Malala, I am sad the Taliban carry out their activities in the name of Islam. And I am glad her story is being heard... —Sarah, a student.
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