I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

 I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World

Malala Yousafzai

[Young Readers Edition]

Published 2014

Pakistani memoir 

Challenge: Book Club


This was a version for young people, but there is one written for adults. I borrowed this copy from my daughter.

Malala Yousafzai lived in a northern area of Pakistan called Swat, and she remembered growing up feeling "as free as a bird." She had an especially close relationship with her father, a school master. Both of her parents were generous and empathetic. 

Malala recalled how women wore veils to cover their faces, but when they were able to remove them, she described their faces as "radiant with freedom." She declared that she would never cover her face, and she was glad to know her father paid no mind to customs. 

At a young age, Malala noticed that women were illiterate and that most girls did not go to or stay in school very long. When she asked why, she was told about the Taliban, violent Islamic fundamentalists who prohibited education for women, among other restrictions.

But some girls did attend school, including Malala who attended her father's school for girls. Malala's father promised to protect her freedom to be educated. She said that at school she and her fellow classmates,
flew on wings of knowledge. In a country where women aren't allowed out in public without a man, we girls travel far and wide inside a book. 
In 2005, a powerful earthquake shook Pakistan, and the Islamic militants used it to instill more fear in the people by telling them, via radio, that it was punishment from God because the people were living sinful lives: listening to music, not wearing proper clothing, and educating girls. Gratefully, Malala's father disregarded what the radio mullah was spewing over the airways. 

But Malala sensed the coming danger. The Pakistani government did not protect its citizens by permitting the radical radio mullah to spread threats, lies, and fear. 

Malala's father kept his school open, while so many others closed their doors due to school bombings; but Malala and many of her schoolmates continued attending. Even after the school was targeted, even after she became concerned, she continued to attend school. She couldn't understand why school was such a threat to the Taliban. 
Why was the education of women such a threat?
For the next 1 1/2 years, the Pakistani army fought the Taliban. During this time, Malala's father and teacher had the girls write essays about their schools. They considered it a peace rally. I loved Malala's speech. She said:
This is not the Stone Age. But it feels like we are going backward. Girls are getting more deprived of our rights. We are afraid of no one, and we will continue our education. This is our dream. 

She said much more than this, and later she added that the Taliban wanted to turn the girls of Pakistan into "identical lifeless dolls."  This made me chuckle because it reminded me of "A Doll House" and The Feminine Mystique, which similarly argue how women were treated in Western society. 

This speech helped propel Malala into an opportunity to use her voice to describe to a larger audience outside Pakistan about what it was like to live under the Taliban. She began to write and submit diary entries to a British news magazine, using a pseudo name. Her parents believed it was their duty to stand up for their country, and they supported Malala. 

But she also did a TV interview, and her mother's friends were shocked that Malala was permitted to show her face. When given an example of Fazlullah's men who wore masks, Malala replied that it was because 

they are criminals. I have nothing to hide, and I have done nothing wrong.I'm proud to be a voice speaking out for girl's education. And proud to show my identity.

Eventually, the Taliban drove out Malala's family along with 2 million other Pakistani people. For three months, they were displaced. When they returned, their area was in ruins, but their home and even the school survived the bombings. It was then that she realized she no longer wanted to be a doctor; she rather help her country by becoming a political leader.

At 13-years old, Malala spoke out frequently for education. She was spoke publicly about child labor, for a way to send disabled children to school, and to rebuild schools destroyed by the Taliban. 

In 2010, fundamentalists blamed the monsoon floods on un-Islamic behaviors as punishment; in 2011, the violence increased; and then, a threatening letter arrived for her father, but he refused to close his school. 

Then Malala won the Pakistan National Peace Prize for children's rights. While accepting her award, she gave a list of demands including repairing the schools destroyed by the Taliban and building a girls' university in Swat. She meant to take advantage of these opportunities, although now her life was in grave danger. 

The Taliban specifically targeted Malala. They wanted her dead. Her father was in tears. He had once told Malala, regarding his own life, " Let them kill me. I will die for what I believe in." But now she needed to give him "a dose of his own courage." She said: 

Everybody knows they will die someday. No one can stop death. It doesn't matter if it comes from the Taliban or cancer. 

On October 9, 2012, while she was riding home from school on a bus with some of her schoolmates, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban. She was just 15-years old. 

Malala was transferred to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, for surgery and recovery. Unfortunately, it was too dangerous to return to Swat. Her father had to close his school, and the rest of the family relocated to England. 

In 2013, on her 16th birthday, Malala addressed the United Nations in New York with every person in mind...that free education be available for all children everywhere. 

Growing up, Malala had always felt invisible. She was self conscious of her height and often prayed that God would give her more height. What she learned through all of this was that stature does not always come in inches. She believes that God answered her prayer through her voice. 

Malala Yousafzai

Malala's story is still on going today. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, and continues to dedicate her life serving others, especially deprived children in poor countries. 


  1. I read this a few years back. She's really a credit to her generation of young Pakistanis, people who are not surrendering to hateful domination.

    1. She definitely is one brave young woman! VERY BRAVE!!!! While it was definitely too dangerous for her to remain in Pakistan, I know she loves her country and would like to return some day. I hope one day she can.

    2. BTW, I read that she may have been given Canadian citizenship, and I wonder if that means she's been living in Canada now or partly bc I cannot understand why they did that, unless it is honorary???

    3. Amusing that the Canadians would honor someone for speaking her mind when not referring to people by their 'preferred pronoun' is a jail-worthy crime there.

    4. I confirmed it...she is an honorary citizen. So all I can say to your point is that I hope then that she never says anything contrary to the powers in-charge at the moment bc it is oh so easy to "cancel" those who have different views.

    5. "when not referring to people by their 'preferred pronoun' is a jail-worthy crime there."

      Lol! Is that what we're known for? Sad.

  2. Hello - terrific work here. i am looking for some assistance locating a quote in 100 years of solitude and wonder if you or someone in your community can help me. "There is always something left to love" is the quote i want to locate - page/chapter (although as you know Marquez did not use page #s so the first sentences of the chapter would also help. i have searched, skimmed repeatedly and can't locate it. i want to confirm that it is in the book because i want to get it as my very first/only tattoo. i was going to use the first line of the book but that takes up quite a bit of real estate. can someone help? thanks!

  3. side note - when i consulted with a tattoo artist she asked what font i want and so i pondered that and discovered that there is a macondo font that is gorgeous and, of course, named after the mythical city created by Marquez!