I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

Born in 1997, Malala Yousafzai grew up in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. She watched as her peaceful valley was taken over by the Taliban, religious extremists. Malala originally dreamed of becoming a doctor, but when the Taliban began banning and destroying school for girls, she found her purpose in life – to stand up for women’s education. Following in the footsteps of her outspoken father, who also ran the girl’s school that Malala attended, she began speaking out and giving speeches against the Taliban’s ban on education for girls.

In October, 2012, Malala was shot in the head by a would be assassin. Now living in Birmingham, England, Malala continues to campaign for education. I Am Malala recounts the events leading up to her being shot and through her recovery.

I remembering hearing about this story in the news and being absolutely appalled that anything like this could happen in the 21st Century. When it was announced that she was writing a book, I instantly added it to my “to-read” shelf. I was excited when my book club decided to make it our book of the month and decided to pick up the audiobook for my drive home over the Thanksgiving break. I have to admit that I while I do like audiobooks, I much prefer a hardcopy or ebook. The problem for me with an audiobook is that sometimes my attention wanders and it becomes almost background noise until I recall myself. I also don’t always like the voice of the person doing the narration. I didn’t have much of an issue with either of these things while listening to this book. The prologue is read by Malala herself and the rest of the book is read by Archie Panjabi, who sounds quite similar to Malala. I enjoyed listening to this book and it certainly made my 8 hour trip pass much easier.

Malala is an amazing young woman and I am truly in awe of her. Although I have never experienced anything remotely close to her story, as a teacher and woman I can relate to her story. I too believe that education is a right and that it should not be denied to anyone. I don’t necessarily believe that attending college is a right, but do believe that every effort should be made to make it affordable for those who chose to attend. As a teacher, I believe that knowledge truly is power. It is one of the most important forces in the world and when you strip people of the right to an education, you take from them the chance to fully understand themselves and the world around them and confine them to second-class citizenship.

As a woman, I have experienced inequality personally. It still astonishes me that we have come so far, but still have work to do. Even in the United States, woman (and many other groups) still struggle for equal treatment under the law. However, I still hold out hope. The struggle for equality has always been a long one. It can be seen time and time again throughout our history. What gives me hope is that we eventually get there. African Americans weren’t always equal, but they are now. Women didn’t always have the vote, but they do now. Equality in my country is not perfect, but the possibility for change is always there. It just requires work, and as people continue to work and push forward, I believe that we will continue to see more and more equality.

What saddens me most about stories like Malala’s is the use of religion for destructive purposes. I am a religious person. I believe in God, go to church, and try to live my life with goodwill towards all. For me, religion has always been a unifying force. It has always been a source of community for me. A place of solace, comfort and family. Unfortunately, every religion has extremists. Those people who take their beliefs to a whole other level. While I have my beliefs, I do not believe in shoving my beliefs down other people's throats, nor do I understand how people can use their faith to justify truly heinous things.

Stories like Malala's are so inspirational. This girl could have given up so many times. She could have given into the pressures of the Taliban. After being shot, she had even more reason to give up, but she didn't. She was placed on this Earth for a reason and I know that there are many more amazing things to come from her. 

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