This was a Book of the Month on the Goodreads Great Middle Grade Reads group, and as it was on my list I got it from the library.
It is the biography of Malala Yousafzai – up to her sixteenth birthday. This extraordinary, ordinary young woman started speaking up about education for girls in Pakistan when she was about eight, and once the Taliban took control of her region, she and her father continued to speak up for freedom of expression – and children’s education. Her father was the local schoolteacher, which may have helped, but I suspect she is a chip off the old block (and I resonate with that with my dad). However her outspoken ways led to her becoming a minor celebrity in Pakistan, and then a target of the Taliban. How to create a superstar in one easy lesson – shoot her.
I like the simplicity of her writing, and to me it reads like a girl who speaks English as her second language (and not in an English-speaking country) would speak. It is really International English with a junior slant. For me, that adds veracity, although some may think the co-author may have had a heavy hand. Personally I doubt it, since Malala was vying for top of the class status, which in my experience of the region in general, means a very high standard. But the descriptions of her village, the school and the effect of the Taliban, don’t have their full impact until I get to the photographs; somehow I had a disconnect between what the buildings looked like and their reality. Maybe I was thinking of schools I’ve seen in India and Nepal; their village was more like an off-the-beaten track place I’ve passed when hiking.
I hope this book can help people understand that Muslims are not all terrorists, any more than Christians are all Klu Klux Klan members. Unfortunately I suspect that the people who read it are not those that think that way in the first place.
As I read Malala’s story I wondered about the strength of mind to stand up and speak out at that age. It is truly strange how cultures and events shape us. Is she a modern-day Joan of Arc?
My local bookclub has added the adult version to their ‘request’ list; it will be interesting to compare the versions.