Ahead of the UK release (in November) of the film He Named Me Malala, a revised and updated version of her original memoir has just been published, written by Malala Yousafzai (with renowned teen author Patricia McCormick) for her peers and containing some very thoughtful discussion materials at the end of the book.
But who is Malala? I first heard of the Pakistani school girl shot by the Taliban shortly after the attack (in October 2012) and of course she’s now world-famous as the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and as a global advocate for both peace and education, especially for girls (on meeting President Obama: “I told him that if America spent less money on weapons and war and more on education, the world would be a better place”).
Perhaps what I had not really appreciated, prior to reading this wonderful book, was the extent to which Malala, then a school girl with dreams and ambitions (“That summer I turned fifteen. …. I knew for certain now that I wanted to be a political leader. … I would do the things politicians only spoke of. And I would start with education – especially girls’ education.”) was specifically targeted by the Taliban, who knew of her through her BBC blog on life in the Swat Valley (near the Pakistani border with Afghanistan), her appearances in local media – “Throughout 2008, as Swat was being attacked, I didn’t stay silent. I spoke to local national TV channels, radio and newspapers. I spoke out to anyone who would listen.” and even her appearance in a New York Times feature. At the beginning of the book, she describes the day of the October 2012 attack:
Two young men in white robes stepped in front of our truck.
“Is this the Khushal School bus?” one of them asked
The driver laughed. The name of the school was painted in black letters on the side of the van.
The other young man jumped onto the tailboard and leaned into the back, where we were all sitting.
“Who is Malala?” he asked
No one said a word, but a few girls looked in my direction.
He raised his arm and pointed at me. Some of the girls screamed and I squeezed Moniba’s hand.
Who is Malala?
I am Malala and this is my story.
A week later, Malala awoke in fear and confusion in a Birmingham hospital, recovering from her terrible injuries. She fought back to full health and now lives, with her parents and two brothers, in Birmingham – as well as travelling the world (“I met one of my favourite people in the USA, a man named Jon Stewart, who invited me to his TV show to talk about my first book and the Malala fund”.), studying, speaking and fund raising.
I love this quote from her speech to the United Nations:
One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world
At the end of the book, she tells us that “I am Malala. My world has changed, but I have not … we have all adapted, little by little, to this new place. My father wears a handsome tweed blazer and brogues now when he goes to work. My mother uses the dishwasher. Khushal is having a love affair with his Xbox. And Atal has discovered Nutella.”
But yet she is still the same teenage girl who played in the streets, argued with her friends and learned English from DVDs of Ugly Betty and Mind Your Language.
It’s a wonderful book, thought provoking, uplifting and inspirational. Make a note of 12th July in your diary as Malala Day (it’s her birthday) and check out The Malala Fund at www.malalafund.org/voice