Malala’s triumph against extremism

Heather Allen's Armchair Column book review: I am Malala

My kids hate it when people ask if they’re ready to go back to school. They don’t want to be reminded that the days of sleeping in and lounging around the house are coming to an end.

Of course, in many countries kids can only dream of going to school. Rather than repeat this old cliché, however, I recently gave my daughter the newly released young readers’ edition of I am Malala: How one girl stood up for education and changed the world.

Many will remember Malala’s story. I am Malala, a book originally published for an adult audience in 2013, tells the story of a young Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai, who was shot point-blank by the Taliban while riding the bus home from school.

I am Malala, the young readers’ edition, tells this same story but with a younger audience in mind. With the help of young adult fiction writer, Patricia McCormick, Malala shares her child’s eye view of her changing world.

Only ten years old when the Taliban take control of her once-peaceful region of Pakistan, Malala is confused by the newly imposed rules. The Taliban say music is a crime. They say women can’t go to the market. They say girls can’t go to school. Raised in a house that values education for all, Malala speaks out.

The young readers’ edition skips over some family history and background information about Pakistan, but the story isn’t whitewashed. McCormick shields the readers from details about horrific events such as public executions, while giving them enough information to understand the injustice.

This book is worth reading just for the inspiring descriptions of Malala’s determination to speak up for education and to recover from her injuries. So why is a young readers’ edition even necessary? Is it a bit rich to not even let our kids read about horrible injustices that are actually happening to other kids?

I struggle with that question. I want my kids to learn about the world, but protect them at the same time. I would love my daughter to read a similarly inspiring story: I am Nujood: age 10 and divorced. But I wouldn’t dream of letting her, unless it was rewritten in a version for young adults. After all, this book documents how a nine-year-old girl in Yemen, Nujood Ali, is forced to marry a middle-aged man who rapes and beats her.

Nujood has had so little schooling, she doesn’t know her rights. The tiny girl eventually escapes and shows up at a courthouse, looking up at the adults gathered there and asking for help to get a divorce.  This too is an ultimately uplifting story, and reminds us of Malala’s message: The best way to stop the repression of women and create stable societies is to allow young girls to get a good education.

 

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