Book: I Am Malala
Author: Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
Narrator: Archie Panjabi, Malala Yousafzai (prologue)
BECHDEL TEST: N/A since this is a memoir
Content warnings: Misogyny, death of children, torture, war themes, animal death, descriptions of surgery, violence, guns, mentions of bombings
My friend Hannah recommended this to me when I needed audiobook recommendations last month, and since we generally have very similar taste in books, and reading about women who have done extraordinary things is right up my street, I felt pretty confident that this book was something I was going to enjoy. And I really did! Malala’s story is so inspiring and though I was familiar with a lot of the basic details surrounding her shooting, I really did learn a lot, both about her and her home country of Pakistan that I didn’t know before. It’s always a little difficult to review memoirs, but I’m going to try my best! Here is a short synopsis of the book:
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.
I found this a very quick and engrossing read, it’s about 10 hours on audio and I finished it in less than a week, which is pretty unusual for me, but I was so captured by Malala’s story that I couldn’t stop listening!
A lot of other reviewers complained about the amount of Pakistan history that was included in the book, but naturally being a history nerd, I didn’t find this a problem and was fascinated by all the details about Pakistan history and culture that were included in the book. I learned a lot that I didn’t know before, and though I’m fairly close in age to Malala (a bit less than a year older), and so was generally familiar with the events described in the book, I learned a lot that I didn’t know about before and it surprised me how much was new to me. I also learned quite a bit about Malala herself that I didn’t know before, I had no idea how involved her father was in promoting girls education and how much of an influence he was on her, it was very touching to see how much her father clearly means to her. I also didn’t know how much she had done before getting shot, obviously I knew that she had already been involved in fighting for girls education and that was why she was targeted, but I had no idea the extent of it.
I do wonder if Malala’s voice was somewhat overshadowed by her co-writer Christina Lamb, not that a 15 year old, especially one as smart as Malala couldn’t understand the political history of her country because of course she could, but the way some of those sections were delivered definitely felt like the voice of a foreign correspondent, not a 15 year old! There’s also some sections, like events set before she was born, and her young childhood, and her time in hospital (most of which she was barely conscious for), that are described in such detail that you can definitely feel that the information is being filtered through another voice. That’s not to say that I think there’s none of Malala in the book at all, you can certainly feel her passion for her cause and love for her family throughout the book, but I’d be interested to see if she wrote another memoir as an adult, how that would differ from this one, especially as it was written so soon after the events of the shooting.
Malala is obviously really inspirational, but the parts I liked the most were actually the bits where she reminds you that she’s just a regular teenager, like when she speaks about TV shows she likes and fights with her friends, it definitely made her feel more relatable! Listening to her speak about her fight for education also made me wish I’d appreciated school a lot more as a teenager, since growing up in the UK, school is a requirement and you take for granted how lucky you are to get an education.
I really liked the narrator Archie Panjabi, I thought she did a great job, she was a very engaging narrator and I loved that Malala narrated the prologue too.
The narrative and writing did feel a little disjointed in places, especially in the early part of the book where Malala is sharing stories about her father and her early childhood, though it did become more cohesive in the later parts. The book also had a tendency to go off on seemingly irrelevant tangents, which did make some parts a little harder to follow. However, considering that English is Malala’s third language, the writing is pretty good and is very engaging and generally her voice does come through very well despite the few points I mentioned about the co-writer above.
It was scary to see how effectively and quickly the Taliban was able to radicalise people, and one point that particularly struck me was where Malala spoke about the Quran being available in translation changing her understanding of religion, as she could actually interpret religion for herself rather than relying on other people: it reminded me of learning about the English Reformation in history classes at school, and why Catholics were so threatened by the Bible being available in English.
Overall, I really enjoyed Malala’s memoir, I learned a lot about both Malala’s own life and the history of her country, and it was such an engrossing read. I would definitely love if Malala wrote another book now that there’s been more time since her shooting, because I reckon she would have so much more to say now, and that her voice would probably come through more clearly now that she’s older. Nevertheless, I’m massively inspired by everything that Malala has done to fight for girls’ education, and found this book fascinating.
My Rating: 4/5
WE MADE IT TO THE END OF THE BACKLOG. Yes, this was my last backlogged review, so my reviews will now be back on track with what I’m actually reading now. My next review will be of The Nobleman’s Guide To Scandal and Shipwrecks, the final Montague siblings book by Mackenzi Lee, but I’m going to be taking a break from the blog over the Christmas weekend, so that won’t be up till next week at the earliest.
This is my last post before Christmas, so Merry Christmas to all if you celebrate, I hope you all have a great holiday however you’re spending it, and I look forward to sharing all my various end of 2021 wrap-up posts with you all when I’m back next week!