Let me preface this review with two important facts. Firstly, I have nothing but respect for Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. Anyone who fights for women to have the right to an education is someone to be admired. Secondly, I often struggle with non-fiction. It just doesn’t have the narrative power of fictional stories.
So what did I think of I Am Malala? Well, it’s a little bit like eating your vegetables. Incredibly good for you – but not always an easy or an enjoyable experience.
It is important that we become more familiar with the cause that Malala represents, and how groups across the world like the Taliban have attempted to take women’s rights back to the dark ages. I admire her strong stance and her peaceful voice. These do come across in the book – which is probably one of the few compliments I would pay her ghost writer.
There are two difficulties Christina Lamb must have faced when writing this book with Malala. Firstly, the incredibly complex political situation in countries like Pakistan. It’s hard to convey the reasons that make Malala’s bravery (and the bravery of those like here) so extraordinary, without having to do quite a bit of exposition as to how this came about. Not always very engaging. The second issue is of course with Malala’s age. At sixteen, although she has had an eventful life, it is still a short one. And in many ways, somewhat protected. We have to hear about many key events second hand, those experienced by her father or other members of her community for example. Again, this leads to loads of exposition.
This makes for a slow read in many ways. If you are interested enough to pick up her story, you will no doubt be ready to persevere.
Malala represents herself quite honestly, including all her teenage squabbles. While this is disjarring with so much going on politically around her, it does make her a bit more “real”.
They are touting this as the non-fiction book of the year. I can’t agree with that – I am sure there are better constructed non-fictional narratives out there. But it is a story worth knowing. It could perhaps have been shorter – I’d be interested to see what the young adult fiction version is like.