I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
4.02 stars out of 5 on Goodreads.
***DISCLAIMER***There’s not any real spoilers, because the true story has been shown quite a lot anyway – you can always skip this review and once you’ve read it feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!
Apart from the fact that this book as one of the longest titles I’ve probably ever had on my shelf, I Am Malala (and all that other stuff) is a semi-autobiographical novel about the inspirational educational speaker and teenager, Malala Yousafzai.
Co-wrote with foreign correspondent Christina Lamb, the story follows Malala’s journey through being raised by her forward-thinking father in Taliban Pakistan to the moments leading up to, and after, the horrendous event where a member of the Taliban open-fired on the back of a school bus, shooting three children, including Malala.
Malala was shot close-up through the left side of her head and she required extensive surgery. Unfortunately for the narrative, the most heroic part about the story happens with luck and chance – Malala was fortunate enough that the bullet did not enter her brain, and lucky enough that she was brought over to good ol’ Birmingham here in the UK to recover.
Her speeches and work on fighting for education simply get lost in the history of Pakistan, her home in Swat, and the wars that have torn through the country. There’s also a lot of emphasis on her father, and his activities for education. While Malala’s father is certainly an inspirational and influential person, you can’t help but think that her own destiny – and her ability to realise that destiny, despite scrutiny from various groups and people – was hugely shaped by her father.
It made me think more about how our parents shape our future, and if we as children should let them. There’s a part in the story, for example, where Malala says she’d like to be a doctor, but changed her mind to politics based on the activity her and her father were becoming involved in. This begs the question, had her father as been as understanding, would Malala even be interested in politics in education?
There’s no doubt Malala’s father has done – and is doing – good in the world. Setting up a mixed school from nothing is beyond an achievement. And while Malala talks about her various speeches and awards for what she believes in, I didn’t get a sense of what she actually believes in.
The girl who stood up for education? Okay, but how? The book fails to address this key issue. How does she campaign, what are her thoughts, what does she talk about in her speeches? (A quick Google search will tell me I know. But the book’s meant to take that work away from the reader!)
The girl who was shot by the Taliban? No doubt about that (despite some saying it was possibly fabricated for media attention), but why did she get shot? The Taliban were already shooting and killing people around and at that time for doing things against their laws, and her father was no exception. Could they have shot Malala to get back at her father? Even so, the last part of the book focuses on this fact alone: Malala was shot by the Taliban.
Subsequently, she gets a ton of attention and sympathy from people all over the world. If her words, her wisdom, and her courage have instilled that in others, then that’s great – it just doesn’t come through in this book the way it should have.
Perhaps in a few years’ time, Malala will be able to write a great book on her own. As it stands, Christina Lamb isn’t a good story-teller in my opinion. She writes very well in terms of political and historical texts, but for engaging the reader and getting those key messages across? No, this Lamb was too rare for me.
I can understand the glowing reviews on Goodreads – Malala is certainly a key influencer in women’s education in countries like Pakistan – but for me, I Am Malala was the opposite.
A Novel About Pakistan, a Father, and Oh Yeah There’s This Semi-Famous Girl Who Got Shot in the Head and Lived (let’s talk about that briefly and out of context) would have legit been a better title for this otherwise disappointing book.