I Am Malala may well be the only biography of a living person I've ever read. I shared what I knew of Malala's story with my AVID class back at Thanksgiving when we were discussing the benefits of living in America. I only knew then what little I'd heard from the news - that she was a girl who was shot in Pakistan for going to school. I received her book as a Christmas gift and finally got around to reading it. I wish I hadn't waited.
After reading the short prologue alone I knew this was a book that everyone who had any interest in education needed to read. Half-way through the book I realized my students needed to read it. I bought a second copy with an old leftover giftcard I had to Barnes and Noble and offered it up to my class. 9 hands went up before I could finish my sentence. The lucky girl (of course) finished it before I finished my copy that I was already half-way through. So, I started a Donor's Choose project to get a class set. I want them all to read it next year.
Amazingly, very little of the book is about the attack and aftermath. It is really the story of Malala growing up in a war zone. She is one of those amazing kids gifted with a desire to learn. I kept thinking back to the little girl in Waiting for Superman and how I wanted to drive to L.A. and pluck her out of that mess after hearing her story. Malala's story though is very different. It is not about pity. It is about hope and triumph. It is also wrapped around stories of Pakistan's history and Islamic culture that I, someone who literally teaches Islamic history, never really got until reading it through her eyes. Though much of the writing is clearly that of her co-author you can clearly see the voice of a 16-year old girl coming through time and time again. It is real and a pleasure (albeit a challenging one) to read.
I highly recommend the book to any and all teachers, especially those of us who teach world history. It is a reminder of why we do what we do and why we need to keep doing more. We have too many kids, even in the western world, for whom education is a wasteland. They have no hope of success and no interest in what they've been offered. That's why I continue to work to create engaging, thought-providing activities week after week. They deserve it.
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