Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably heard about Malala last year. She was shot in the head by the Taliban on the way home from school, and was flown to the UK to be treated in Birmingham.
But until I read this book, I didn’t really know the details of what had happened, or quite how seriously she was injured. When she was shot, the bullet entered through her left eye, and ended up in her left shoulder. The bullet missed her brain, but the bone fragments didn’t and she ended up with major swelling on her brain, so bad that they had to remove an 8cm square section of her skull to relieve the pressure. Thankfully the actions of the doctors in Pakistan and Birmingham saved her life and she lived to tell the tale.
And what a tale it was. I know that Malala collaborated with a writer called Christina Lamb on the book, but you could tell she was clearly a very clever young woman, educated on the history of her country and passionate to make a change. Which is unfortunately why she was targeted. As a young girl in Pakistan, she was eager to learn and be educated, not an unreasonable thing to wish for. However, the taliban had other ideas and believed that school should be for boys, and girls should stay at home. In the years before she was shot, Malala was quite outspoken about the need for girls to be educated, writing a secret diary for the BBC and attending meetings with politicians. So it wasn’t coincidence that she was the one that was shot, she was specifically targeted for wanting to make a better life for herself, her friends and thousands of other girls in her position.
The history included in the book was fascinating to me, I obviously knew little bits about it from the news coverage over here, but that was obviously with a massively western bias, and it was enlightening to see it from the perspective of the people it was actually affecting. And to learn more about Muslim and Pakistani traditions was brilliant, opening my eyes greatly.
I knew before reading that it was going to be difficult to read, knowing in advance the horror that was going to happen at the end, but I did believe that it would ultimately have a happy ending. But not so much. Malala and her family may now be living in a leafy suburb of Birmingham, attending school and getting all the care that they need, but they are now thousands of miles away from their family and friends, displaced from their home with none of their possessions, and not able to return. Being able to skype with their relatives may help a little bit, but Malala’s mum doesn’t speak English and is isolated as a result. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for them. Great joy at not losing their daughter/sister, but missing home every single day.
As I said before, you can tell that Malala is extremely clever, and the book was a beautiful, if heart-wrenching read. Even if it was just to learn more about the history, I would highly recommend this book to open your eyes.