“Education is our right, I said. Just as it is our right to sing. Islam has given us this right and says that every girl and boy should go to school. The Quran says we should seek knowledge, study hard and learn the mysteries of our world.”
Much like many books that I’ll read this year, I Am Malala has been on my to read list since I heard about it. I just never got around to reading it until this year.
One of the reasons I made sure to read it was because I had just started reading In Search of Islamic Feminism by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea. Though I had made a commitment to read the book, I was hesitant because it was written by a white Christian woman; why should I read her findings on Islamic feminism when I could read about it by a Muslim author. Then I remembered that I Am Malala was on my ebook wish list. So I opened up the Chicago Public Library Overdrive website, and lo and behold, it was available.
When I opened the first chapter, I wasn’t sure what all the book would encompass. I knew the book was a memoir, and that was about it. But throughout the chapters, Malala not only wrote about her life, but about her father’s, her mother’s, and Pakistan’s. She provided glimpses of the Pakistan she knew and what Pakistan had become while she was living there.
I didn’t know much about Pakistan before I opened her memoir. I hadn’t read many fiction novels set in Pakistan either; just mostly Afghanistan (Khaled Hosseini’s books and The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis are the first that I think of). She provided beautiful descriptions of Swat and its history, none of which I remembered to copy down before I had to return the ebook.
There was a lot of wisdom in this memoir, wisdom that isn’t expected of teenage girls. I don’t know that I would’ve expected myself to have that sort of wisdom in my mid-teens. Then again, I didn’t experience what she experienced. I’ve always believed that education is the key, and that everyone should have access to it. But I found myself asking nearly every chapter: would I have done what Malala did? Would I have written an anonymous, daily journal about my experiences getting an education with the Taliban threatening to shut down my school? Would I have given interviews affirming the importance of girls education? I don’t know if I would’ve at Malala’s age.
“When someone takes away your pens, you realize quite how important education is.”
I Am Malala is a memoir that should be on everyone’s to read list, no matter what age. This would be a good reading group option for junior high English classes. This book not only offers a view of a Pakistan but also is written by someone their age. That should be a determining factor, especially for teen girls.