When Malala Yousafzai decided to co-write her autobiography alongwith award-winning writer Christina Lamb OBE, she had a definite story to tell: the one that the world already hadn’t heard.
For someone whose life has been laid bare quite literally, it must be a hard project to take. I Am Malala was released in October 2013 when she was 16 years old. It was almost a year after she was shot by a Talibani militant on her way to school – an incident that brought the Taliban the attention it never got before.
Yet Malala and her family had the courage to release her autobiography that successfully gives the context of the events leading up to the life-threatening attack. You learn that Malala loved “Wizard of Oz” and that the most vital lesson in that book would become her guiding principle in life. If you really want to do something, you can – was the lesson that she remembered when speaking boldly against the Taliban that dared to ban girls’ education.
The book is a thrilling account of a regular girl’s ascent from a small town in Swat valley to becoming a Nobel Prize Winner at the age of 17. Many Gen-Z readers from the West will find the environment surrounding her upbringing unreal: teen girls wearing Burqa to school, children sitting on the floor reciting their lessons or children crossing mountains and valleys to reach school. And yet, I Am Malala manages to sketch a picture of normalcy in the form of the teen girls’ interests: TV shows, friends or plans for the weekend.
The book is full of tear-jerking moments but two incidents are especially endearing. First, when Malala is transported to Birmingham for treatment following the attack, she wakes up to find herself unable to speak. So the staff give her a pink notebook to write and a teddy bear to comfort her. Secondly, she is now studying in a school in London and during a Physics class, she gets a message to step outside. Her reaction is: what happened? Am I in trouble? That’s when she gets the news that she was nominated for the Nobel Prize.
Christina Lamb OBE is an accomplished writer and journalist. She has won 15 major press awards including four British Press Awards and the European Prix Bayeux-Calvados for war correspondents. While re-telling Malala’s story, Lamb brings the essential sensitivity needed to tell a warzone story. She along with Malala have created a beautiful account of an extraordinary life.