I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
This one has been on my to-read list basically since it came out. I knew I admired her for her stance on education (and her willingness to be so vocal at such a young age), but I didn’t know much about her beyond that, or much about her home.
This is a really interesting book for someone like me, who is not familiar with Pakistan, or at least not familiar with it beyond what gets reported in the U.S. media. If you look up images of Swat (the region of Pakistan where Ms. Yousafzai and her family come from), you will see it is utterly gorgeous. The book provides some basic history of the area, giving the reader a lot of great information about the culture, about religious influences, about the military, and the politics of the region.
The book starts with a quick chapter on the assassination attempt that nearly took her life and made her even more recognizable than she was, but the vast majority of the book is about her life before the shooting. In addition to the history I mention above, she talks about her daily life, about how things changed with the Taliban, about challenges of education. Her father is a really interesting person, as is her mother; I loved reading about them as well as Ms. Yousafzai.
The book itself is told in Ms. Yousafzai’s voice, with some assistance from Ms. Lamb. I don’t know if it was written in Pashto and then translated, or written directly in English (she is fluent in those languages, as well as Urdu), but it definitely does feel like something written by a young woman. The language is at times very flowery and the sentences can seem short and simple, but they paint a very vivid picture. I can clearly pull up in my mind her home, her school and her town; she is an excellent storyteller.
You probably heard that she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year; her work is pretty amazing. If you want to learn more (but don’t plan on picking up the book just now), you can visit the Malala Fund website.