Thursday, December 22, 2016

I Am Malala

Book: I Am Malala

Basic Information : Synopsis : Thoughts : Evaluation : Book Group : New Words : Book References : Good Quotes
: Table of Contents : References

Basic Information: Author: Malala Yousafzai
Edition:eBook on Overdrive from the Fresno County Library
Read: December 22, 2016
333 pages
Genre:  History,  Biography
Rated: 4.5  out of 5

Malala rose to fame as an advocate for female education, particularly in Muslim regions of the world. Then she was shot in the face and nearly died. This is her story from the time she was a child in Swat Pakistan. It follows her desire to learn and follow in her father's footsteps of being educated.

It is a very personal story, as well as one where she advocates in each step of the way for education and women's rights. There is much chatter about her conversations with her friends-remember, these are grade school females. But there is also the retrospective understanding Malala brings to her story, the understanding that her purpose is bigger than just one girl's education.


Birmingham, England, June 2015
Malala talks about how she has all the comforts of modern life in England. But there is a sense of yearning for home. Are we ever complete when we are not home? Or in her case, where the danger she faces she cannot go back home for a very long time, if ever? Sadness is the feeling conveyed. GK Chesterton wrote a whole chapter in a book, Manalive, which talks about not being content until the protagonist returned back home. There is nothing more beautiful than ones home.

Growing up in a school
He [Malala's father] thought there was nothing more important than knowledge. Knowledge is power (Francis Bacon). While Malala does not say this, it is the undercurrent of the book.  Probably even more so than knowledge is the exposure to different ideas than what you are used to. Even if you do not adopt these ideas, you still have to deal with them. In dealing with them you understand yourself better.

...if you help someone in need you might also receive unexpected aid. While not quite altruistic, it is true.

Why I don't wear earrings and Pashtuns don't say thank you

...the dish were a reminder of my guilt. This is in reference to an incident where Malala had stolen a handful of almonds from a vendor. Her father bought the whole lot, even though he could not afford it. These were put it onto a dish. Malala understood the significance. We see our guilt and we can either face it square and change or ignore and remain unchanged.

The autumn of the earthquake
...we Muslims believe our fate is written by God.  This is in context of the disaster of the Pakistan earthquake.  Is there a better way to say that God controls our destinies?  This points to that we can describe and attribute things in many ways, all are accurate. In many ways how we describe something can be as much a reflection on ourselves as the actual event. How Malala describes it gives the impression of a God who is arbitrary and capricious.

Radio Mullah
Our men think earning money and ordering around others is where power lies. They don't think power is in the hands of the woman who takes care of everyone all day long, and gives birth to their children.  Power lies in neither. It lies in being true to one's self, to ones calling.

The bloody square

Manual workers made a great contribution to our society but received no recognition, and this is the reason so many of them joined the Taliban-to finally achieve status and power.  Interesting diagnosis. Is that the only reason? If you had a Buddhist cobbler, would they join the Taliban? Malala's diagnosis is interesting, but not complete, the same way as those who joined the Taliban's motives are incomplete.  There are ways to receive recognition, and that is to be your own person, no matter what others think of you. To be true to your own calling. Carrying a gun or talking loud does not connotate significance.

The diary of Gul Makai
Even at eleven she had a presence enough to be part of a documentary about females being educated in a Islamic country. She had been asked to do a blog, which she did under a pen name. Actually reads pretty well, much like this book.

Malala's father says Don't you think she is meant for the skies? (Meaning the sky is the limit for her). Malala's response: Fathers can be very embarrassing. My children would agree with Malala about that.

A funny kind of peace
The secret school is our silent protest. Even though the Taliban banned schools for females about the age of ten, there were schools which allowed them to learn still.

Some people are afraid of ghosts, some of spiders or snakes—in those days we were afraid of our fellow human beings. Particularly the Taliban. But this is true throughout history. Think about the Nazi's  or the very many genocides of the 20th century. Even the current hysteria about what Donald Trump will bring. Every politician has fear as their companion. It is what drives us away from others and to them. Which brings up that what would a candidate which espoused, really thought that unity would be a good thing look like? How would they be received? My guess, we really like fear.

Who is Malala?
God showers us with his blessings, but he is honest as well. This seems to be a truth amongst many religions. There is a mindset where God is a genie. You rub His tummy and magic appears. On the other hand, we do not earn his grace, but it is given not by our actions. I like that phrase, but he is honest. That indicates to me that there is an integrity to God. He does not do what is convenient for the time, but stands by his word.

I love physics because it is about truth, a world determined by principles and laws—no messing around or twisting things like politics, particularly those in my country. Still politicians seem to be able to cherry pick what they want to believe, such as climate change, and ignore or say the science is not unanimous. It is interesting how Malala uses truth here. Like Pilate said, what is truth? In my view, it is an accurate description of the world we live in.

"God, I entrust her to You"
God is not a miser. The faith of Malala's mother while she was being operated on. Her father was bargaining with God. But the mother was confident that either Malala would be given back to them or taken away, not some half measure.

Journey into the unknown
It is my belief God sends the solution first and the problem later. Said by Dr Javid, one of the people who did surgery on Malala. I am not sure that is true. Sometimes we are called to wait for the solution.

"They have snatched her smile"
It was a noble cause. Malala's father asked her mother if she felt it was his fault. No, because of the nobleness of what the family fought for-education of women. The nobleness of a cause will result in sacrifice. Is it better to live peacefully without purpose of with turmoil with?

We human beings don't realize how great God is. He has given us an extraordinary brain and a sensitive loving heart.... True. I do not think about this enough.

One child, one teacher, one book, one pen

Malala starts this chapter with a feeling of this is not my home, no matter how nice it is. She echo's GK Chesterton's thoughts about a home. Home is where you feel, well, at home. A sense of belonging, a sense of knowing the area.

A friend of Malala's father says that the scaring and the problems with her left eye are the beauty of her sacrifice. Still it sounds a bit cold and unsympathetic to my ears. Still there is something about the scaring of a person, it heals and becomes a reminder of all who sees it that there is a person who thought more of others than herself.

Even in holy places people desecrate the image of God. Malala observes that in Mecca there is littered with plastic bottles and wrappers.

Malala talks about what her identify is-not the girl who got shot by the Taliban, but the girl who fought for education. Sounds like the identity of someone who has a good image of herself.

Swat is now a place of fear. This is sad to me. I hope I never have to live in a place like that.

Talking to President Obama, Malala tells him that instead of focusing on eradicating terrorism through war, he should focus on eradicating it through education. Is this truly a wining way?

Malala ends the book with I am Malala. My world has changed but I have not.  I cannot see how this is true. We are in the process of change all the time-we cannot remain unchanged. In some definitions, changelessness is infinity. Confucius said Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change. 

 Malala needs no introduction-she is famous world wide, even as a teenager. Unlike most teenage sensations, it is because of her advocacy and resulting sacrifice does she become famous. This is Malala's autobiography of her  young life.

Her, and her co-author, writing is simple and easy to read. She does a good job of explaining her culture and the pressures in it. In an autobiography, you expect some to a great deal of self-promotion. While by its nature, an autobiography is that, Malala keeps this low key, talking about her faults and her strong will.

This is a book which should be read, not because it is a blue-print for action or Malala calls you to some big project, but for two reasons. The first is personal, you realize if one child from a remote region in Pakistan can make an impact, there must be something I can do. The second is for a better understanding of the diversity of the Muslim faith and culture.

Notes from my book group:
The group's opinion was this was a noteworthy and worthwhile book to read. We had a healthy discussion about Malala's relationship with her father, changes in our perceptions of Muslims, and if she really was changed and in what ways. The selection of this book was because one of the people in our group enjoyed the book, but in another group, there was the thinking that they did not like it because of the obvious influence of the father on Malala.

There is a feeling of the effort which the Taliban made to disenfranchise women. Malala does not think the Koran supports such a view. Also the sense of fear is strong.

My questions for the group are:
  • What about Malala stands out to you?
  • Malala's homeland Swat experiences severe changes in a short amount of time. What changes occurred? How did these changes affect her? How would we react if similar changes occurred around us?
  • Malala's father embeds the idea that  there was nothing more important than knowledge. Is this accurate? How do we see this in action. Are there more important concepts which we need to go by?
  • This book contains a fair amount of religious statements for a book which is considered secular. As you read the book what opinions about Muslims were reinforced? What changed?
  • Malala thinks that the Taliban mis-interprets the Koran. In what ways does she see differences in how the Koran is used? Do you think these differences are sincere or put in for control reasons? How do we as Christians respond when we see practices by other Christians which are not Christian?
  • When Malala writes about the Pakistani earthquake, she says that we Muslims believe our fate is written by God. How do we Christians define this concept that God is in control of the universe? Is this a thread which is throughout the book? If so, how is it exhibited?
  • When Malala is being operated on, her mother tells her father that God showers us with his blessings, but he is honest as well. What do you make of this statement?  Later on her mother says God is not a miser in response to her father just wanting some of his daughter back. Is this a good understanding of God?
  • Dr Javid says It is my belief God sends the solution first and the problem later. Is this how God works?
  • Malala says We human beings don't realize how great God is. He has given us an extraordinary brain and a sensitive loving heart... What in this book caused you to appreciate God's greatness more?
  • When Malala visits Mecca, she finds there is plastic bottles and wrappers littering the area.  You would think that in a place people consider holy there would be respect and reverence. What do we find in places Christians consider godly? What does that say about us humans? 
  • Malala tells President Obama that instead of focusing on eradicating terrorism through war, he should focus on eradicating it through education. Is this truly a wining way?
  • Malala ends the book with I am Malala. My world has changed but I have not. What is Malala trying to say about herself?  Do you think it is true? Confucius said Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.  Do you think Malala will change, either because of age or change of place?
From Little Brown
  1. Malala    is    known    for    her    passion    for    education    and    women’s    rights.    How does    her    passion    for    education    shape  her    life?  Do    you    have    a    particular cause    that    you    care    about    deeply?    Discuss.
  2. Malala    became    an    activist    when    she    was    very    young.    Discuss    how you felt    while    reading    about    her    experience. There    did    Malala    find    her courage and    inspiration?
  3. Malala    and    her    father    have    a    very    unique    and    close    relationship. Think    of    someone    in    your life    who    has    been    a    mentor.    How    did they    inspire    you?   
  4. Discuss    Malala’s    relationship    with    her    mother. What    influence    does    she have    on    Malala?    In    what    ways    does    Malala’s    relationship    with    her mother    compare/contrast    with    her    relationship    with    her    father?   
  5. Have    you    dealt    with    a    traumatic    or    life    changing    experience?    How did    you    react    in    the    aftermath    of    that    incident?   
  6. Malala    witnesses    her    immediate    surroundings    change    dramatically    within a    short    time    period.    Describe    the    changes    to    both    Pakistan    and    Swat throughout    I    AM    MALALA.    How    does    Malala    experience    and    respond to  these    changes?    How    is    Malala’s    character    influenced    and    shaped    by her    surroundings?   
  7. Throughout    the    book,    Malala    describes    her    desire    to    return    home    to Swat    valley.    Discuss    how    Malala’s    relationship    with    Swat    is    complicated even    further    by    her    role    as    an    activist.    Do    you    think    Malala    will return    to    Pakistan    and    Swat?    Discuss.   
  8. Malala    demonstrates    an    overwhelming    sense    of    courage    in    the    face    of adversity.    Discuss    how    Malala    reacts    to    the    challenges    she    faces,    as well    as    the    challenges    to    Swat    and    Pakistan.    How    do    her    peers react?    What    gives    them strength?   
  9. Malala’s    family    now    lives    in    Birmingham,    England.    Have    you    ever    been    uprooted    in    your    life?    What    happened    and    how    did    you    adapt?    How    did that    experience    shape    your    worldview?

Also, consider these LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for I Am Malala:
  1. Would you have had the bravery that Malala exhibited and continues to exhibit?
  2. Talk about the role of Malala's parents, especially her father, Ziauddin. If you were her parents, would you have encouraged her to write and speak out?
  3. How does Malala describe the affect of the growing Taliban presence in her region? Talk about the rules they imposed on the citizens in the Swat valley. What was life like?
  4. Malala has said that despite the Taliban's restrictions against girls/women, she remains a proud believer. Would you—could you—maintain your faith given those same restrictions? *
  5. Talk about the reaction of the international community after Malala's shooting. Has the outrage made a difference...has it had any effect?
  6. What can be done about female education in the Middle East and places like Pakistan? What are the prospects? Can one girl, despite her worldwide fame, make a difference? Why does the Taliban want to prevent girls from acquiring an education—how do they see the female role? *
  7. This is as good a time as any to talk about the Taliban's power in the Muslim world. Why does it continue to grow and attract followers...or is it gaining new followers? What attraction does it have for Muslim men? Can it ever be defeated?
(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)
* We received an email sharing the following perspective, which draws a clear distinction between the Muslim faith and Taliban practices. The email relates to Questions 4 and 6, respectively:
There is no "overt" Muslim prejudice against women. Although there are some customs in Islam specifically intended for women, these customs are for a reason. Everything has a reason. The Taliban, however, take things to a far new level. They overtly shed women of certain rights they deserve. There is a distinction between Islamic rules and customs and Taliban discrimination.   

Muslims do not prevent women from acquiring an education. It is the Taliban that does so. Educating women is encouraged in Islam. One of the biggest Muslim scholars was in fact a woman.... Like Malala, I am sad the Taliban carry out their activities in the name of Islam. And I am glad her story is being heard...   —Sarah, a student.

University of North Carolina Library developed study guide-chapter by chapter.

New Words:
  • There is an extensive dictionary of Pastun/Urdo words in the back of the book. Otherwise, the words used are common English words.
Book References:
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  • Wizard of Oz by Frank Braum

Good Quotes:
  • First Line: Two years have passed since my book came out, and three years since the October morning when I was shot by the Taliban on a school bus on my way home from class.
  • Last Line: My world has changed but I have not.
  •  Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes. Mahatma Gandhi  quoted in Why I don't wear earrings and Pashtuns don't say thank you
  • Teach him if you can the wonders of books, but also give time to ponder the extreme mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun and flowers on a green hill.  Abraham Lincoln from A Letter From Abraham Lincoln To His Son’s Teacher 
  • If you want to resolve a dispute or come out from conflict, the very first thing is to speak truth.    Chp: The clever class
  • You must speak the truth. The truth will abolish fear.  .    Chp: The clever class
  • God showers us with his blessings, but he is honest as well. Chp: Who is Malala?
Table of Contents:
  • Birmingham, England, June 2015
  • Prologue – The Day My World Changed
  • A daughter is born
  • My father the falcon
  • Growing up in a school
  • The village
  • Why I don't wear earrings and Pashtuns don't say thank you
  • Children of the rubbish mountain
  • The mufti who tried to close our school
  • The autumn of the earthquake
  • The Valley of Death.
  • Radio Mullah
  • Toffees, tennis balls, and the Buddhas of Swat
  • The clever class
  • The bloody square
  • The diary of Gul Makai
  • A funny kind of peace
  • Leaving the valley
  • The Valley of Sorrows
  • Praying to be tall
  • The woman and the sea
  • A private Talibanization
  • Who is Malala?
  • "God, I entrust her to You"
  • Journey into the unknown
  • A second life.
  • "The girl shot in the head, Birmingham"
  • "They have snatched her smile"
  • One child, one teacher, one book, one pen


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