The subtitle of the book, The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban, is why many of us know her name, but this book allows us to learn more. I was impressed by the way her father fought convention and circumstances to promote her attendance at school and her participation in political activism. I was also struck by Malala’s depiction of the beauty of Swat, and the culture of the Pashtun people. As much I was dismayed by the emergence of the Taliban, at least I knew a bit about that. The detail that former members of the police force would take out ads to make it clear that they’d left the force (in order to protect themselves and their families) left me hanging my head. More frustrating, though, is her perception (grounded in a great deal of fact, in my opinion) of the US’ involvement in the area.

I know there’s been some backlash lately, that Malala is getting too much credit as an individual rebel. I think that’s the Western influence. We like our heroes solo. Certainly, there are others (including women), who are working for education in Afghanistan and against the Taliban. I know giving too much credit to a single person can breed resentment, but movements also need leaders.

One writing note – I wish the two authors had provided a note about their process. There were a few moments when the historical narrative bogged down and I wondered how much of that was Lamb’s work. And the decision to have Malala narrate the section after she got shot was odd, though not ineffective. Still, a brief explanation of why the authors chose to present the story that way would have been appreciated.

She’s a hero to me (malalafund.org); I will pass this book on to my children.

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