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I Am Malala - the cure for ignorance

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I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

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In Ken Loach’s 2004 film Ae Fond Kiss, a Pakistani girl living in Glasgow makes a speech to her school where she asks if confusing Jesus, Santa Claus and Elvis as the same person would be ludicrous. Of course it would be. She then says that many people in the West make similarly ignorant assumptions when they talk about cultures that are not their own, anything from calling any person who wears a turban a terrorist to believing that all Muslims believe in violent jihad.

If everyone were to read this book, I Am Malala would go a long way towards remedying this ignorance (the author does not exclude himself from this ignorance). Malala Yousafzai made headlines when she was shot by the Taliban for speaking out for education for young girls when the Taliban had been making a great effort to eradicate it. This book is her autobiography, or perhaps biography, since the book was told to Christina Lamb.

The book serves its purpose, which is to provide a detailed and informative background about Malala and her homeland. In fact, much of the book reads like a textbook, especially when she talks about the history of Pakistan and Swat Valley, her homeland. While interesting, these passages do halt the narrative flow. However, the more personal stories she relates make up for them. Her father is as or even more interesting than she is. His love for his daughter is a prominent theme and is the most interesting story in a book full of interesting stories. The reader also gets to see that not only is Malala extraordinary, but also that she is very recognizably a teenage girl. She loves playing with friends. She loves Twilight and Ugly Betty.

One could suspect that Lamb may have suggested to Malala to include these details since Malala can clearly speak at great length about education for girls, but those words would be more powerful if people remember how young she is. Malala Yousafzai is a media sensation, with all the positive and negative associated with that label, but her message is important enough to last beyond the hype, and it rings loud and clear in her book.

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