Review Blog

Oct 07 2014

Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick

cover image

Hachette, 2014. ISBN 9781780622156.
(Ages: 12+) Highly recommended. War, Fanaticism, Refugees, Taliban, Islam, Women, Education. Subtitled, The girl who stood up for education and changed the world no reader can pass by this book without recognising the young woman staring out from the cover. Her face and the events surrounding her medical evacuation to England were on every media report for months, and millions followed her plight. Shot in the face by a fanatic in the Swat Valley in northern Pakistan, while on her way home from school, she needed emergency attention. Her book concentrates initially on the family and her religion, her day to day life, her school and the increasing imposition of extremist views in Pakistan. These views that women should not be educated, that women were not allowed to leave home without a male relative with them, and only when wearing a full cover, came to the fore after the devastating earthquake of 2007, after which some preached that it was a warning from Allah. The ones who helped those affected by the earthquake were the followers of the extremist Fazlullah, and they were able to promote their views. As they grew stronger, fear bubbled through the community, TV sets were destroyed, polio vaccines rejected, and radio used to attract followers until many of their ideas became common usage in northern Pakistan, with opposing people being beaten and killed by the fanatics. But some spoke out against them, Malala's father, the school principal amongst others, and Malala too became outspoken from an early age, talking on the radio, and freely giving her views on girls' education.
Calls to Pakistan's army fell on deaf ears, and it wasn't until the Taliban started to be a murderous influence in Islamabad, that the army moved to act. But it was too late for Malala.
This is a riveting read, not only because it tells younger readers about this brave young woman and her fight against the tyranny of fanatics, but also because it speaks to us all about taking a stand against fanaticism, and coincidentally showing how easily fanaticism can take a hold on a community. I was constantly reminded of the rise of Nazism, and echoes of the rise to power of the IS in Iraq today.
Education is the key to overcoming fanatics like this. We take so much for granted in the west and this singular book reveals to our sometimes overprotected students, what lengths people will go to be educated, and what lengths some will go to prevent it happening.
This could be an adjunct to study alongside the many wonderful novels set in the Middle East, the novels of Deborah Ellis and Rosanne Hawke spring to mind. At the end of the book is a glossary, a timeline of events in Pakistan since partition, a series of book club questions and information about her current work. A map at the start of the book sets the story in its place in the world.
Fran Knight

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