So, let me show my uneducated American-ness for a second here. I confess that, prior to Malala Yousafzai being shot, I had no idea who she was. Even after she was shot I had no idea who she was, and I honestly had no idea why it was such a big deal. Because, in my ignorance, I was under the impression that the Taliban was off shooting schoolgirls all the time. This, apparently, was not the case. Malala is a bit of a special instance, due to her advocacy for girls' education--though the Taliban insists that she was shot because she was going against Islam, not because of her stances on education. Either way, her experiences were the reason I turned to this as my pick for a political memoir for my reading challenge this year. I didn't really want to read about a run-of-the-mill politician, so Malala's memoir seemed like a good alternative.
Now, this didn't end up being as political as I had anticipated, as Malala basically recounts her entire life story up until the time she was shot, and a period of time afterwards when she was recovering. It was written before she won the Nobel Peace Prize and before she became such a huge force in advocacy for education around the world. Still, you can see the seeds of that in this, and definitely see her political origins in Swat, Pakistan, the valley where she grew up. Her father was definitely a big influence on her, and she emphasizes again and again that no matter how much she admired her father and no matter how much he worked with her on her advocacy, it was still her decision to make her speeches and put herself out there. She's definitely a strong young woman, and someone to be admired for her firm stance even in the face of being assaulted by the Taliban.
My issue with this was pretty much exactly the opposite of the issue I had with the last memoir I read, Climbing the Mango Trees. In CtMT, I found that the writing was good, sometimes even beautiful, but the content just didn't interest me. In I Am Malala, the content is amazing and inspiring, but the writing...well, it reads like a teenage girl wrote it. Malala has a co-writer listed (Christina Lamb; the listing is unusual, but I like it) but I would definitely say that she was heavily involved in this book because of the way it reads. It really does sound like a high school essay at many points. Now, I completely understand that yes, Malala was still in school when she wrote it, but the downside of this authenticity of voice means that the writing oftentimes isn't very engaging. The life she describes and her growth to an active advocate for education is fascinating, but the writing lends a certain distance to this that, at times, almost makes it read more like a Wikipedia article than a memoir.
Malala is an amazing young woman with an important cause, and I really admire her for that. I'm glad that I read this, because it gave me a deeper understanding of where she came from and exactly why she's advocating for education--even before the Taliban became involved, she wanted everyone to be able to go to school. The writing wasn't the most riveting I've ever seen, but I'm still very happy with this as a selection for my reading challenge.
3.5 stars out of 5.