Today there are new developments in the story about survivor Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year-old who was targeted and shot by the Taliban in Pakistan in 2012.
I was privileged to see Malala be interviewed by Jodi Kantor recently at a New York Times TimesTalks event. Malala was, in a word, phenomenal.
Ms. Yousafzai has all of the beauty, energy, courage, and idealism of youth and yet she answered questions, and not just softball ones, like a seasoned professional, with a wisdom far beyond her years. You can see highlights here: http://timestalks.com/detail-event.php?event=i_am_malala
At the same time that Malala is forcefully and persuasively championing universal education and individual rights, she remains very much a teenage girl; now living in Birmingham, England, she quarrels with her younger brothers, struggles with her biology class, and desperately misses her best friend from back home (they keep up on Skype). She doesn’t want to be thought of as the girl who survived the assassination attempt; she wants to be known for the work she has been doing, and continues to do, against terrorism and oppressive regimes, and she wants to continue to inspire others through her advocacy.
Her book, I Am Malala, co-authored with Christina Lamb, is an impressive volume, explaining just where this force of nature came from, with great deal of detail about her Pashtun culture, her extended family, and her father’s activism, all of which influenced her.
The prose, however, is a bit workmanlike, and the extensive history of the region (the Swat Valley, in northern Pakistan) and her family’s background seems awkwardly shoehorned into the more immediate story; much of it reads much more like a scholarly biography than a girl’s memoir.
Fortunately, the date of the interview I attended, August 19th, was also the date of the release of the young reader’s edition of I Am Malala, this one written with Patricia McCormick. This is, in my opinion, a better book. Her voice is more clear here, perhaps because it was written by a teenager for teenagers, and tells her story more personally.
There’s a rather thorough glossary of terms which may be unfamiliar to the young reader, and an extremely helpful timeline of important historical events, which helps place her particular triumphs and tragedies in a greater context, without the exposition overwhelming the narrative.
Margaret Mead is reported to have once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Malala Yousafzai and her family are living proof that she was correct. Her story, so far, is well known, but her work is far from over. Read her books, and give a copy of the young reader’s edition to a young woman, or a young man, you know. Help her inspire them to create change, in their own communities, and across the world.
If you’d like to help the work she’s doing to advocate for education, you can learn more or donate here: http://www.malala.org/
I Am Malala: 3 Whistles
I Am Malala (Young Reader’s Edition): 4 whistles
Malala Yousafzai and her ability to change the world: 5 whistles
Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.
Laura, NewsWhistle’s Arts and Culture editor, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org