If anyone knows the power of words, it’s Malala Yousafzai. Nominated for a second time this year as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, you’ve most likely heard of the fearless girl who took a bullet for women everywhere while defending her rights to attend school. But you might not have known Malala has been an advocate on the international stage since age 11, putting the spotlight on girls and women amidst the longest, most exhaustive war in our history.
Penning her memoir at only 16, I Am Malala, opens with the day she was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban, an Islamic extremist group, who targeted her for spreading secular beliefs. For most of us who are only familiar with Afghanistan through the media’s coverage, Malala leads us through the war-torn region of Swat, once a lush, tranquil valley she called home, to offer a different view.
Here, we are introduced to Malala’s family, where she pays particular tribute to her idealistic father, Ziauddin, who raised her to be ambitious and curious in a culture that values sons over daughters. A hard lining advocate for education and leader in his community, Ziauddin founded the school that Malala attended around the idea of reinforcing human potential rather than gender norms. Valued for his principles and conviction in a town terrorized by extremist ideology and repression, Ziauddin and the Yousafzai family were (and remain) constant targets for the Taliban as they spread their militant rule over the valley. Amidst the senseless killings, school bombings and threats, Malala only grew more empowered: reading, studying and giving speeches her father helped her write to advocate freedom through education.
Throughout, I am Malala stays true to the author’s admiration for books and captures a unique view of the oppression that girls and women face in different parts of the world. An empowering piece of history, Malala’s memoir proves she is more than a poster child for the cause, but rather an active voice calling on all of us to realize our power. Admitting she forgives her own assailant, Malala’s perseverance and steadfast morals ascend hatred and fear. Her memoir is a physical testament that power and change are rooted in knowledge and serves as compelling reminder to never stop educating ourselves.