Malala Yousafzai, with Christina Lamb, I am Malala; The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban (New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 2013), 327pp.
By Dan Clendenin
Malala Yousafzai was eleven years old when the Taliban took over her Swat Valley in northwestern Pakistan in 2008. They bombed everything — power stations, a ski lift, hotels, funerals, and over 400 schools. They conducted public whippings and hangings, and beheaded over 1400 fellow Muslims. Police were so terrified of being murdered that they took out newspaper advertisements to announce that they had quit the force. The Pakistani army eventually rooted them out, or so they said, but the troubles continued.
Malala Yousafzai's father received death threats, which wasn't a surprise given that he was an outspoken political activist and had founded a major school that educated girls. He even kept a copy of Martin Niemoeller's famous prayer in his pocket ("First they came…"). By this same time, at age eleven, young Malala had emulated her brave father. She wrote a diary for the BBC Urdu station under a pen name that described life under the Taliban. She had given interviews on national television, the NY Times did a documentary about her, and she won numerous academic awards. She knew she wanted to be a politician.
When she was fifteen, on October 9, 2012, a Taliban gunman fired three shots at point blank range at Malala as she rode home on her school bus. One shot hit her, and the other two wounded her two class mates. By that time Malala was an international icon as an outspoken critic of all forms of violence and oppression, and an advocate for education for girls. After a miraculous recovery in England, where she lives with her family today, Malala parlayed her personal tragedy into a global mission. On her sixteenth birthday she spoke at the United Nations. In October 2014, at the age of 17, she became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. This book is not only an inspirational story, it's a window onto the complex political crisis in Pakistan.