There are pluses and minuses to listening to Malala's story as an audiobook. On the one hand, Archie Panjabi does a fantastic job of reading the book and listening to Malala herself recount what happened to her on that fateful October day in the prologue brought me to tears. However, she also delves deep into the history and politics of the Swat Valley region where she grew up. There were many moments when I would have appreciated being able to flip back a few pages and find the connections between events.
One of my favorite things about Malala's decision to tell her story is her commitment to showing that she is just a normal teenager. It would be easy for her to sit on some sort of pedestal as a Nobel Prize winner. Instead, she is candid about her fights with her siblings, a youthful bout of stealing from a friend, and her love for Ugly Betty and Beyonce. She talks about the dissonance between her perception of herself as a normal girl and the media's portrayal of her as "the girl who was shot by the Taliban."
While this is unarguably Malala's story, we also learn a lot about her father Ziauddin. He was the one who ran the school for girls in the face of opposition from the Taliban. Ziauddin hated the ways that school were required to follow the decrees of whoever was in power and do favors and give bribes to the right people. Instead, he started his own school even when the upkeep threatened the financial well being of his own family. He also encouraged his daughter to speak up for her right to an education. One of my favorite parts of the book was hearing about Ziauddin's decision to name his daughter after a legendary poet and female warrior. He says that he knew from birth that his daughter was special and would do amazing things.
I Am Malala is an important story. Before she even turns twenty, Malala has found her voice, a cause to fight for, and the courage to carry on in the face of great opposition. As she recounts her squabbles with her brothers and teasing from her father, she reminds us that families in Pakistan are not so different from our own here in the United States. As she recounts the history of her country and her people, she teaches us about a place most of us have never seen and opens our eyes to what is happening on the other side of the world. When she fights for every girl and boy to have an education, she reminds us that "one child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”
I Am Malala
By Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
Hachette Audio 2013
9 discs; 10 hours
From the library