Malala Yousafzai’s 2014 is still relevant today. PHOTO COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

There are a few reasons why I started to read “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban”:

  1. Malala Yousafzai is 20 years old now, and it’s pretty cool that I’m reading about the story and accomplishments of someone who’s the same age as me.
  2. She was shot in the head by a Taliban operative in 2012 because she wanted to go to school, and survived to tell the horrific assault in her book.
  3. In 2014, she became the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize (when she was 17 years old).
  4. She continues to fight to ensure girls’ education all over the world, becoming a great example for women’s advocacy everywhere.
  5. My mom bought this book for me saying it would be an eye-opener, and she’s usually right.

And what an eye-opener this book was.

Malala Yousafzai grew up in the Northwestern part of Pakistan. Her family is Pashtun, an ethnic Muslim group situated in Afghanistan and Pakistan. She wrote and published her memoir “I am Malala” by the time she was 16 years old, telling stories of her childhood in a family living under terrorist rule and how she started fighting alongside her father to ensure education for girls.

Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, is a scholar who long advocated for education for both boys and girls in his region. He taught Malala to always fight for what she wanted, according to her book. He was also the one that encouraged her to write for BBC on her thoughts as a girl living under Taliban rule when she was only 12 years old.

I knew she had written anonymous diary entries for BBC while the Taliban controlled her region. The Taliban had prohibited girls from going to school, and Malala wrote to share the way she felt about it. As those entries became well known in Pakistan and the world, she started to give interviews condemning the Taliban for disrupting her studies. While I knew that part of her story from reading news stories, it was only when I was reading about it in her own words that I understood the rawness of her desire to continue school and her frustration for being prohibited to do so.

What most inspired me reading this was the fact that she never gave up on humanity, or in its ability to do good, even as she was a victim of a brutal assault delivered with such hate. To hold on to one’s faith in God, and faith in humanity, after all of what she’s been through, is truly remarkable and inspiring.

“I don’t want to be thought of as the ‘girl who was shot by the Taliban’ but the ‘girl who fought for education. This is the cause to which I want to devote my life,” she writes on page 309.

As I write this, I wear pajamas, have chips next to me to snack on, and there’s music playing in my room. People in general don’t usually count their blessings enough, but this book has opened my eyes a little bit further into how lucky I am to be able to spend most of my nights like this. Sometimes, we get lost complaining about homework and midterms, and forget we’re lucky just to be able to complain about school. For Malala and all the girls out there who don’t have the same privilege, we have to increase our ability to identify the good things in our day-to-day lives.

When reading this book, one needs to open up to the compelling way Malala tells her stories to truly understand what she experienced and felt. We should see her drive and passion for girls’ education as inspiration to find those good things in life, and be thankful for the little things.