The Red Couch: I Am Malala Introduction

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Red Couch -I Am Malala5

The first time I realized education was not considered a right for many children, especially girls, around the world, I didn’t know what else to do but weep. I was 24 when I first witnessed the difference education can make in a life and how the lack of knowledge cripples.

I was volunteering in a small school in South Asia, most of the children receiving an education their parents had not, that many in their village never would. I saw the light in their eyes when they spoke of their hopes for a future beyond the day labor most of their families knew. Many spoke of dreams of becoming doctors and engineers.

Returning over and again to this land that captured my heart, I have been able to spend time in several such schools. Just a few months ago, I was visiting a small village near the school when I met a young teenaged girl, baby in her lap and a toddler running near. Her teacher told me she could have been a great nurse had she stayed in school beyond sixth grade.

I jumped at the chance to read I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education And Was Shot By The Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb because of my connection to the part of the world from which this story comes and because of my belief in the power of education I gained in South Asia.

Malala Yousafzai’s story became worldwide news in 2012 when the then 15-year-old girl was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban, targeted because of her outspoken views promoting girls education in Swat Valley in northern Pakistan. She has remained in the public eye as an advocate for human rights and education and has become the youngest Nobel Prize laureate.

Like me, you may have heard the story of Malala, but if you believe you know her through news stories and haven’t read the story in her own words, I think you will be surprised.

I expected to walk away from reading this book with a greater concern for women’s rights. That was woven through the book, of course. How could you not become passionate about education and rights reading the first-hand account of a girl who was banned from school—putting a face to one of the 57 million children not in primary school—32 million of those being girls?

As a mother to a bright young seven-year-old, my anger flamed at the thought of her being driven from her own school. This book brings us to the brink of important questions as we reflect on our own access to—or lack of access to—education.

What are we willing to give so others might have this right that should be for every boy and girl? Are we willing to stand up for it like Malala?

While this is a book that challenges us to think about our views on education as a fundamental right, it is also a book about what motivates a person to stand up when others around her are accepting what life hands them. It is a story about faith.

I was challenged by the portrait of her activist father, who valued his daughter in a culture where girls are cast aside, who was so counter-cultural. When the Taliban had taken over her beloved home, her father reminded her life was harder for women in Afghanistan.

How are we shaping those we influence to live in a way that seeks to better the lives of others?

As I read her account I was also overcome by the gentle and kind words from this devout Muslim girl, her gratitude in the face of the unthinkable and her passion for making a better world for others. “God, give me strength and courage and make me perfect because I want to make this world perfect,” prayed a young teen in the face of terrorism and oppression.

As I read her prayers, her deep belief in a good and loving God, I wondered: how deeply are my own beliefs empowering me to change the lives of others like she has? 

“I know God stopped me from going to the grave. It feels like this life is a second life. People prayed to God to spare me, and I was spared for a reason—to use my life for helping people.” —Malala

_________

Come back Wednesday, July 27 for our discussion post. Join the Facebook group to discuss the book throughout the month.

Our September book is Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women And The Burden Of Strength by Chanequa Walker-Barnes.

The Nightstand at SheLoves Magazine

I Am Malala (Young Readers Edition)Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick

Malala on the Daily Show (October 10, 2013)

The Malala Fund

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide – Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books – Azar Nafisi

Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi

Three Cups Of Tea– Greg Mortenson (While Mortenson’s work is questionable, it’s hard to talk about the importance of girls’ education without this book coming up at some point.)

Top 10 Reasons Why Female Education Is Important

Girls’ Education– The World Bank

*Recommended Beth Bruno, Kelly Nikondeha, Annie Rim

 

Are you reading I Am Malala with us? Share your thoughts so far in the comments.

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

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Nicole T Walters
I love to experience and to write about this messy, noisy, beautiful world and cultures not my own. My family currently calls the southern United States home but I travel internationally as often as she gets the chance with my husband and two little ones. I hope to help others create space to hear God’s voice in the all the noise of life as I write about faith from a global perspective at A Voice in the Noise {nicoleTwalters.com}. My writing has appeared in places like Relevant, CT Women, and Ready. I am a regular contributor here at SheLoves and over at The Mudroom, and am a member of the Redbud Writers Guild. You can read more of my story in my essay included in the newly released book Everbloom: Stories of Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives.
Nicole T Walters
Nicole T Walters

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  • I’m in! I saw National Geographic’s recent documentary on Malala’s life–she is an inspiration. Can’t wait to read/listen to the book. Half the Sky is also excellent reading! Thank you, Nicole, for your continued encouragement to help our sisters around the world.

    • So glad you’re here! Half the Sky is definitely on my list. I saw the documentary recently but loved reading it in her words even more.

  • Marilyn Gardner

    I know this story well. And I’m glad I read it. But I can’t help thinking, and my Pakistani friends have confirmed this, that it was written with the agenda of the Western co-author in mind. Malala is amazing – but she and her father are not the only ones fighting for women in Pakistan. I wish so much that the book had shared some of the wonderful other things that are done in the shadows. The problem is, we in the west don’t like it when people operate quietly. We want big. We want flashy. We want our idols. And we got one in Malala – only problem is, in doing so, Pakistan lost their spokesperson. She is an inspiration – but unfortunately she has been coopted by the West. Sorry to speak so strongly on this – it’s one of my passions.

    • Thank you for pointing this out. You have seen more of what is going on in the shadows. Are there other books or places that these stories are shared – resources you would point us to? What would you suggest for people that want the real story or to truly help in this arena?

      • Marilyn Gardner

        Thanks for your gracious response. One of my favorite people, and someone absolutely committed as both a minority Christian and woman is Myra Laldin. She is an advocate for education and rights of the persecuted minority. http://www.edu4pak.org/
        She has been here at Harvard the last two years and is looking at next steps.

        • Thank you for this. I will be following along with this to learn more!

        • Thanks for pointing us to this, Marilyn. We love learning together!

  • I loved reading this story in Malala’s voice and hear her heart and prayers, too. What a committed woman. Such GRIT. What stood out for me was her dad’s commitment to her and women’s education. He is a hero in my book too.

    • Yes! I’ve been impressed with the tenderness with which Malala speaks of her parents. Her mum is a hero as well, for even though she had no education, the regret of what she missed has made her a champion of her daughter’s pursuit of learning. And it sounds as if she is now getting the schooling that she missed as a girl.

  • I loved that this book sounded like it was written by a young girl. So eloquent and inspiring, but there was something about her voice that continually reminded me she is so young. And so brave. Love that you reminded us of her parents – brave kids come from brave parents. It’s a reminder to me as I look at values we instill in our daughters.

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