I am Malala Book Review

 In Books

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Malala Yousafzai has accomplished more by the age of 18 than even the most decorated world leaders, philanthropists, and start-up prodigies. The Nobel Peace Prize winner has become the face of global education and girls’ rights, and her reach and influence is undeniable. She rubs elbows with the likes of Oprah, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and Sheryl Sandberg; or has the clout to enlist celebrity sparkle for a Free the Children video (#WeAreSilent). Malala’s marketing force is everywhere. Here is my I am Malala book review.

I have long been interested in reading about the conflicts being fought abroad – the military missions against the Taliban, ISIS, and other such terrorist groups. I have read dozens of books and watched tons of documentaries about special operations forces, predominantly the United States Navy SEALs. I am fascinated by these special operations forces and their training, inspired by their brotherhood, and also wish to understand their lives after serving. Of all the literature and content I have consumed, all the stories have been from the perspective of these warriors. Yet now, you can have the perspective of a young girl in the very Hindu Kush Mountains they have fought on. The extensive descriptions of Malala’s beloved valley and the culture within are intensely detailed and show the beauty overlooked by Hollywood combat dramas.

I had originally gifted I am Malala to my sister for Christmas one year, but decided to take it with me during my solo cabin retreat last winter. Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down and read it through one snowy night. I sense the book is largely carried by co-author Christina Lamb, but the scary truths of Malala’s story grip you to the core as they explain her life in Swat, Pakistan. The book does a great job at really capturing the “average” girl that Malala could have been – studious and ambitious, but also a fan of Justin Bieber and Twilight. It makes my skin crawl to see some of the bratty tweens parents have to grapple with here; #firstworldproblems go out the window when you have to fear for your life when choosing to simply go school puts you in grave danger.

“Don’t worry, the Taliban have never come for a small girl”

Malala foreshadows her encounter with the Taliban early on when explaining how females have few – if any – options. “It’s hard for girls in our society to be anything other than teachers or doctors if they can work at all. I was different – I never hid my desire when I changed from wanting to be a doctor to wanting to be an inventor or politician,” she writes. It’s like asking a kid in primary school what they want to be when they grow up, except . To me, what stands out the most is not so much this young girl’s drive to study her heart you – it is the guidance and support of her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai.

“I didn’t clip her wings”

Ziauddin is an educator and activist who founded schools in Pakistan, particularly schools where girls were allowed. He currently serves as a United Nations Special Advisor on Global Education and the educational attaché of the Pakistani consulate out of the UK. From decades ago,  he (and eventually with Malala) began speaking publicly about education and equal rights. This is where their paths as activists really began. This is that point where they chose to stand up and say something, despite threats against them and their family. In a society where the birth of a boy child is celebrated, and, as Malala herself says, the options for girls are limited…having a father like Ziauddin is arguably what made Malala who she is. She learned the courage from her father standing against dark forces, and so she herself took those same characteristics to dare to go to school.

The bulk of this book is about the life Malala had to leave behind after being shot, a little bit about her recovery in a hospital in the UK, and even less about how the marketing machine has built up around an 18 year old girl and propelled her story and platform with indescribable global reach.

Throughout the whole book, what is clear is how Malala developed in to the strong and defiant girl who effectively stood up for millions of others. “Because I didn’t clip her wings,” her father says.

Here are some links from more recent projects:

View Ziauddin’s TED talk.

View Free the Children’s #WeAreSilent video starring the likes of Selena Gomez, Seth Rogen, Clive Owen, Edward Norton, and Jennifer Hudson.


Pick up a copy of I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban for your bedside table.


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