By Chet Yarbrough
Written by: Malala Yousafzai
Narrated by: Archie Panjabi
Malala Yousafzai may be narrowly identified as a symbol of women’s rights. That categorization is certainly earned but one is left wondering what will become of this young woman.
Malala lives the life of an old soul–advocating for equal rights at eleven years old and being nearly murdered at 15. Malala will be 20 years old this July.
As most know, Malala is shot in the head by two young Taliban who attacked her school bus in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. We know they were Taliban because they acknowledged responsibility soon after the attack. Miraculously, the bullet did not penetrate Malala’s brain but bone fragments from the shock of impact severed a facial nerve and temporarily paralyzed most of her motor functions. Malala is rushed to a hospital in Pakistan and is saved from immediate danger by a competent Pakistani neurosurgeon. The world is apprised of the attempted assassination and sends messages of support for Malala’s recovery. In “I Am Malala”, a listener finds that after-care in Pakistan nearly ends Malala’s chance for survival.
Somewhat ironically, Great Britain comes to Malala’s aid. The irony is in the long history of Great Britain’s colonization of Malala’s homeland. There is historical justification for India/Pakistani’ ambivalence toward the West. “I Am Malala” touches on that ambivalence. However, Malala recognizes how important Great Britain’s assistance was in saving her life.
Malala reminds listeners of the lost lives of her countryman from American drone strikes and the invasion of Pakistani air space; including military action to kill Osama bin Laden.
On the one hand, Malala shows embarrassment over bin Laden’s successful sanctuary in Pakistan; on the other, she implies America should have worked with the Pakistani government to capture the world’s most notorious terrorist. There is a whiff of resentment in Malala’s depiction of the West’s treatment of her country but it is ameliorated by her principled stand for education, equal opportunity, and Pakistan’ sovereignty.
“I Am Malala” shows a young girl with great resilience and ambition. One is left with the impression that Malala will return to Pakistan. She will attempt to become a leader in her home country. The message one gets from her book is that Pakistan is a great and beautiful country that can be a partner with the West as an independent and Islamic nation. Malala is a politician in waiting. One hopes for her success.