I Am Malala

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Malala Yousafzai Character Analysis

The author and central figure of I Am Malala, Malala Yousafzai is a strong, intelligent, and intensely passionate crusader for women’s rights and the right to free education. During the course of the book, she appears on television and the radio, before the United Nations, and in the capitol buildings of dozens of countries, always lobbying for the same issues. She is also extraordinarily young for someone so politically active—as of 2015, she is only 18 years old, and for many of the crucial events in I Am Malala, she’s barely a teenager. There are many points in the book when it’s easy to forget Malala’s age, as she always seems mature beyond her years. Malala’s courage and passion make her seem almost superhuman, especially in light of the global fame she’s achieved in recent years. In part, Malala intends for her book to correct this perception, as she shows us how she developed her passion for justice. Malala is modest, always reminding us that she rose to fame thanks to the help and encouragement of other people, especially her father, Ziauddin. Ultimately, I Am Malala shows Malala to be both a product of her environment (her exposure to writing and communication from an early age, her father’s influence, etc.), and an innately brave and intelligent young woman.

Malala Yousafzai Quotes in I Am Malala

The I Am Malala quotes below are all either spoken by Malala Yousafzai or refer to Malala Yousafzai. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Women’s Rights Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Back Bay Books edition of I Am Malala published in 2015.
Prologue Quotes

The man was wearing a peaked cap and had a handkerchief over his nose and mouth as if he had the flu. He looked like a college student. Then he swung himself onto the tailboard at the back and leaned in right over us.
“Who is Malala?” he demanded.
No one said anything, but several of the girls looked at me. I was the only girl with my face not covered.

Related Characters: Malala Yousafzai (speaker), Ataullah Khan
Related Symbols: Burqa
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

In the prologue to her memoir, Malala paints a startling picture of the day she was shot by a Taliban assassin. The man stops Malala's school bus and marches inside, asking for Malala. Although Malala says nothing at all, it's obvious enough who she is: she's literally the only girl on the bus not wearing the traditional burqa (or veil).

The absence of a burqa on Malala's face, you could say, is her undoing: because she wears no burqa, the Taliban soldier shoots her and sends her to the hospital. But in a broader sense, Malala's choice to discard the burqa (under her country's Taliban rule) demonstrates her bravery and determination. The burqa is a traditional symbol of Islamic faith and feminine domesticity: to wear a burqa is to be an obedient, faithful woman. (Of course, this isn't always the case, and for many women the burqa can represent strength, religious faith, and individuality.) Even in her appearance, Malala is saying that she doesn't accept that women must be second-class citizens--they should be equal to men, and have the same freedom of speech and expression.

In all, Malala takes on the qualities of a martyr in this scene. She stands quietly in opposition to misogyny in Pakistan, and she's punished by Taliban soldiers for her bravery and commitment to equality.

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Chapter 1 Quotes

For most Pashtuns it’s a gloomy day when a daughter is born.

Related Characters: Malala Yousafzai (speaker)
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

From the beginning, Malala makes it clear that women in Pakistan are usually treated as second-class citizens. When a baby is born in the Pashtun community, Malala explains, it's considered bad luck if it's a woman.

As Malala goes on to explain, the Pashtuns are an old, proud tribe of people, many of whom live within the country of Pakistan's border. The Pashtuns are often warlike and violent, meaning that women don't always have a natural "place" in society--since fighting is considered a high virtue, women, with their weaker bodies, are considered less "virtuous" than men. In short, by many Western standards, the Pashtuns would qualify as a profoundly sexist culture.

What's especially unfair about the Pashtun take on women, Malala makes clear, is that women are judged and demeaned before they're even aware that they are women--i.e., from the moment they're born. As a young, educated woman, Malala tries to reverse the sexism of her society by showing that women are capable of the same achievement and success as men.

Chapter 2 Quotes

School wasn’t the only thing my aunts missed out on. In the morning when my father was given a bowl of cream with his tea, his sisters were given only tea. If there were eggs, they would only be for the boys. When a chicken was slaughtered for dinner, the girls would get the wings and the neck while the luscious breast meat was enjoyed by my father, his brother, and my grandfather. “From early on I could feel I was different from my sisters,” my father says.

Related Characters: Malala Yousafzai (speaker), Ziauddin Yousafzai (speaker), Rohul Amin
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Malala gives details about how women are separated from men from an early age: they're even fed differently. Young boys, who supposedly need the extra nutrition to grow into strong, proud warriors for the Pashtun tribe, are given the juiciest, most delicious chicken meat, while young girls are fed the leftovers--wings and neck meat.

As the quotation makes very clear, there's nothing more intuitive for a child than eating. Therefore, for boys and girls to be fed different cuts of the chicken is a surprisingly powerful way to teach them that they're different. Over the course of years and years, boys are taught that they "deserve" better than women, with the result that they grow into men who've embraced the sexist ideas on which they were raised.

Under Zia’s regime life for women in Pakistan became much more restricted. Jinnah said, “No struggle can succeed without women participating side by side with men. There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a third power stronger than both, that of women.”

Related Characters: Malala Yousafzai (speaker), Mohammed Ali Jinnah (speaker), General Zia ul-Haq
Page Number: 30-31
Explanation and Analysis:

Malala gives a brief account of Pakistani history since World War Two. In the middle of the 20th century, Pakistan was controlled by Muhammed Ali Jinnah, an educated, popular leader who was notable in that he supported equal rights for women. As Malala explains, Jinnah wanted women to enjoy the same rights and opportunities as men--he wanted them to be able to vote, work the same jobs as men, enjoy the same rights in court, etc.

Following Jinnah's death, however, Pakistan fell under the control of a military dictator, General Zia. Zia reversed many of Pakistan's feminist leanings--where Jinnah wanted equality, Zia wanted to restore the traditional Pakistani arrangement, whereby women largely stayed in the home and didn't hold jobs or appear in court.

In giving such an account of Pakistan's history, Malala aims to show that her country, in spite of some sexist aspects of its history and culture, isn't unprecedentedly sexist. Malala shows that Jinnah--a hugely popular, charismatic leader--was a feminist, too. By paralleling her beliefs with Jinnah, she makes her platform seem more acceptable to a Pakistani audience, while also dispelling some Western prejudices about Pakistan (i.e., that it's "barbaric" to women).

Chapter 3 Quotes

[My father] believes strongly in freedom of speech. “First, let’s read the book and then why not respond with our own book,” he suggested. He ended by asking in a thundering voice my grandfather would have been proud of, “Is Islam such a weak religion that it cannot tolerate a book written against it? Not my Islam!”

Related Characters: Malala Yousafzai (speaker), Ziauddin Yousafzai (speaker), Rohul Amin
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section, Malala describes her father's actions during the 1980s, with regard to one of the most infamous events of the decade: the fatwah placed on the life of Salman Rushdie. Rushdie, a celebrated English-language Indian author, wrote a book called The Satanic Verses, in which he wrote about the prophet Muhammed and satirized elements of Islam. Since "depicting" Muhammed in any way was strictly taboo in Islam, there were some fundamentalist Muslims who wanted Rushdie to be punished or even killed for his book.

Yet here, Malala clarifies that while there were many Muslims who wanted to hurt Rushdie, not all did. Some, like Malala's father, Ziauddin, argued that Muslims shouldn't attack Rushdie simply because they disagreed with him. Ziauddin made it clear that he was a proper, righteous Muslim--and yet he also argued for the freedom of speech: Rushdie must be allowed to say whatever he wanted, even if many people found it offensive or heretical. The Salman Rushdie affair is still an acid test for intellectuals throughout the world: some treat the incident as proof that Islam is a fundamentally violent religion, one that can't handle any criticism of its principles. There are even some who've used the Rushdie affair to suggest that Mulsims themselves are dangerous. Yet Malala makes it clear that such assumptions are just offensive stereotypes. There were many more Muslims, such as Zaiuddin, who respected Rushdie's right to write whatever he wanted.

Chapter 5 Quotes

Though I felt bad, I was also relieved it was over. Since that day I have never lied or stolen. Not a single lie nor a single penny, not even those coins my father leaves around the house, which we’re allowed to buy snacks with.

Related Characters: Malala Yousafzai (speaker), Ziauddin Yousafzai
Page Number: 71-72
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section, Malala makes a claim that seems, on the surface, impossible. She insists that she's never told a lie, and never stolen anything--in short, never done anything wrong. She explains that she was inspired to be "good" after her parents caught her stealing a pair of earrings from a friend.

Malala's "crime" (committed when she was just a little girl) might seem inconsequential to most people. But Malala was so embarrassed and racked with guilt from her theft that she resolved to become a better person. In a fundamental way, then, Malala is "strange" in her moral righteousness. She finds it possible to maintain a standard of ethical behavior that almost anyone else on the planet would find impossible.

Chapter 6 Quotes

Some of our religious people saw Osama bin Laden as a hero. In the bazaar you could buy posters of him on a white horse and boxes of sweets with his picture on them. These clerics said 9/11 was revenge on the Americans for what they had been doing to other people round the world, but they ignored the fact that the people in the World Trade Center were innocent and had nothing to do with American policy and that the Holy Quran clearly says it is wrong to kill. Our people see conspiracies behind everything, and many argued that the attack was actually carried out by Jews as an excuse for America to launch a war on the Muslim world. Some of our newspapers printed stories that no Jews went to work at the World Trade Center that day. My father said this was rubbish.

Related Characters: Malala Yousafzai (speaker), Ziauddin Yousafzai
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

Malala discusses the aftermath of September 11, 2011, when Osama Bin Laden engineered the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City. While bin Laden's actions were regarded as war crimes throughout much of the world, Malala explains that bin Laden was regarded as a hero by some in her own country. Bin Laden was praised for getting "revenge" on the United States, a country that, it was widely agreed, caused violence and death throughout the Middle East.

Malala makes it crystal-clear that she doesn't agree with this opinion. She takes pains to show that the people in her country who supported 9/11 weren't thinking clearly at all--they just used 9/11 to air their grievances against Jews, American imperialists, etc. Malala shows that the Pakistani response to 9/11 was rooted in ignorance more than anything else. She also stresses that there is absolutely no Islamic justification for Bin Laden's terrorism: the Quran is explicitly against murder. In short, the people who use Islam as a justification for terrorism are simply bad Muslims.

Chapter 7 Quotes

I am proud that our country was created as the world’s first Muslim homeland, but we still don’t agree on what this means. The Quran teaches us sabar—patience—but often it feels that we have forgotten the word and think Islam means women sitting at home in purdah or wearing burqas while men do jihad.

Related Characters: Malala Yousafzai (speaker)
Related Symbols: Burqa
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

Throughout the memoir, Malala offers her own interpretation of Islam. Malala admits that her interpretation is hardly the only one: there are some Muslims who believe that their religion gives them justification to attack American soldiers and kill American families. But Malala grounds her arguments in specific passages from the Quran, the holy book of the Islamic faith. Here, Malala cites a passage from the Quran in which Muslims are encouraged to practice patience. As Malala interprets the word "patience," Muslims shouldn't resort to violence simply because they want "results" now. There are terrorists who believe that the fact that Pakistan is a largely Muslim country means that they should protect their country from Western influence at all costs--Malala insists that such acts of terrorism violate the Quran's emphasis on patience.

In general, Malala admits that there's some disagreement on what Islam means and what it asks Muslims to do. Her goal in the passage is to show that there's a legitimate, consistent interpretation of Islam that forbids terrorism and violence against others--an argument that, unfortunately, many Islamophobes in the U.S. refuse to believe.

Chapter 8 Quotes

Mullah from the TNSM preached that the earthquake was a warning from God. If we did not mend our ways and introduce shariat or Islamic law, they shouted in their thundering voices, more severe punishment would come.

Related Characters: Malala Yousafzai (speaker)
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:

Shortly after September 11, 2001, there is an earthquake in Pakistan. Many Pakistani people--supported by their mullahs, or religious leaders--believed that the earthquake was a sign from Allah, telling Muslims to fight America by any means necessary. The earthquake was also used to justify the imposition of strict "Muslim" law: women were forbidden to go to school, for example.

As Malala makes clear, the earthquake is a classic confusion of causation and correlation. Certain leaders can use earthquakes and other natural disasters to justify their radical interpretations of Islam--but things could just as easily go the opposite way (i.e., the earthquake is punishment for those who use Islam to oppress and kill others, etc.). Malala implies that education could dispel confusion about the causes of earthquakes and encourage the people of Pakistan to think more rationally about the world and about their religion.

Chapter 10 Quotes

We don’t have any option. We are dependent on these mullahs to learn the Quran,” he said. “But you just use him to learn the literal meanings of the words; don’t follow his explanations and interpretations. Only learn what God says. His words are divine messages, which you are free to interpret.”

Related Characters: Ziauddin Yousafzai (speaker), Malala Yousafzai
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Malala's father gives her instructions about how to relate to Islam. The Pakistani people rely on mullahs, holy men, to interpret Islam: mullahs are trained to read the Quran accurately and carefully and offer a logical reading of the text. But Zaiuddin (Malala's father) has come to see that many of the mullahs in Pakistan can't be trusted any more: they're too political, and too willing to throw in their lot with the Taliban, encouraging ordinary people to subjugate women and hurt the innocent.

Because the mullahs of Pakistan can't be trusted, Zaiuddin encourages Malala to adopt an unusual approach to Islam: instead of believing in the teachings of an appointed religious leader, she should use them to learn the Quran herself and develop her own interpretations of the text. While there are many Muslims who would find Ziauddin's approach simply incorrect (or even heretical), it has some notable advantages. For instance, by reading the Quran herself, Malala moves past the sexism of her society. Mullahs in Pakistan give sexist, biased interpretations of the Quran, in no small part because they're men themselves. Malala, as a woman, is more likely to read the Quran in terms of equality between the sexes. In short, Ziauddin doesn't want Malala to "rebel" against Islam: he wants his daughter to be less biased, and therefore more truly Islamic, then the mullahs themselves.

Chapter 11 Quotes

It was school that kept me going in those dark days.

Related Characters: Malala Yousafzai (speaker)
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

In the mid to late 2000s, life is rough in Pakistan. The country has been torn apart by war between American soldiers and Taliban fighters. Entire communities have been destroyed in the crossfire. In these dark times, Malala always turns back to education. School is more than a place for learning--for Malala, school is a place where she can be optimistic about her future; confident that her lessons in math, writing, and history will help her become a more successful, happy adult. Malala also shows readers that school is a place of fun and laughter: she and her classmates have a great time putting on plays and pageants that distract everyone from the hardships of Pakistani life. In all, Malala uses this chapter to paint a picture of education as a force for good--not just a luxury, but a necessity for all human beings.

Chapter 12 Quotes

“They are abusing our religion,” I said in interviews. “How will you accept Islam if I put a gun to your head and say Islam is the true religion? If they want every person in the world to be Muslim why don’t they show themselves to be good Muslims first?”

Related Characters: Malala Yousafzai (speaker)
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:

As Malala becomes more well-known throughout her country, her message of peace and hope becomes more passionate. In this passage, Malala conducts a series of interviews in which she makes the argument that a true Muslim would never use violence or intimidation to convert other people to the faith. As she puts it, nobody can be tortured or frightened into becoming a Muslim: the choice must be freely made. In other words, the Taliban's terrorist actions are counterproductive: they won't create any new Muslims; only send the false message that Islam is a religion based on threats.

Malala firmly believes that Islam is a religion of peace. Furthermore, people should be exposed to Islam, along with other ideas, through education--only then can people truly choose to embrace Islam in their own lives. Malala's interpretation of Islam isn't the most popular one in Pakistan, but she uses her interviews and speeches to popularize her point of view.

Chapter 13 Quotes

The Taliban’s deadline was drawing closer: girls had to stop going to school. How could they stop more than 50,000 girls from going to school in the twenty-first century? I kept hoping something would happen and the schools would remain open. But finally the deadline was upon us.

Related Characters: Malala Yousafzai (speaker)
Page Number: 158
Explanation and Analysis:

As the first decade of the 2000s comes to an end, the Taliban issue a threat: all girls must stop going to school or be punished for their supposed defiance of Islamic law. On some level, Malala wants to believe that the girls of her country will defy the Taliban's pompous threat--there are more than 50,000 of them, after all. But then again, Malala knows the truth: the Taliban is powerful and intimidating enough that the young women of Pakistan will withdraw from their schools to save their own lives.

In one way, the fact that the Taliban succeed in banning women from school is a massive victory for their ideology. The Taliban maintain that good Muslim women must be docile and subservient to men: they should spend most of their time in the home, and certainly not bother with education. By threatening the young women of their country, the Taliban have "succeeded" in enacting their dubious interpretation of the religion. But on another level, the Taliban's threat is a sign of weakness. The Taliban, we can tell, are genuinely scared of women: like Muhammed Ali Jinnah, they recognize that there's nothing more powerful than educated, ambitious women. That the Taliban, with all their guns and bombs, could be so intimidated by the prospect of girls learning math shows how weak they really are, and how bankrupt their interpretation of Islam ultimately is.

Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow. Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human.

Related Characters: Malala Yousafzai (speaker)
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation, Malala offers one of her most powerful arguments foe the importance of education. There are some Muslims--the Taliban leaders, for example--who maintain that education is dangerous for women. Education, it's argued, teaches women to be ambitious, competitive, and generally disobey men--therefore, it's best for women to stay out of schools and serve their husbands.

Malala, by contrast, argues that education is a basic human right, not an affront to religious faith. Whether the student is Muslim, Christian, or atheist, it's morally wrong to deny her the freedom to attend school. The crux of Malala's point is that only with education can a woman (or a man) become a good Muslim: only when a student learns about all the religions and ideas in the world can she truly choose to become a Muslim. In general, then, Malala supports the notion of a "marketplace of ideas." Instead of threatening or intimidating people into accepting Islam, Malala wants Islam to be an available option for the people of the world, open to study and analysis. Ironically, Malala is much more confident in the power of Islam than the Taliban are: where the Taliban think it's necessary to bully people into embracing the faith, Malala is sure that people will choose it freely, simply because it's right.

Chapter 14 Quotes

A few days later the video was everywhere. A woman filmmaker in Islamabad got hold of it and it was shown on Pakistan TV over and over, and then around the world. People were rightly outraged, but this reaction seemed odd to us as it showed they had no idea of the awful things going on in our valley. I wish their outrage extended to the Taliban’s banning of girls’ education.

Related Characters: Malala Yousafzai (speaker)
Page Number: 170
Explanation and Analysis:

In the city of Islamabad, a woman is savagely beaten for "daring" to buy makeup from a store, and someone manages to capture the horrific incident on video. The video quickly becomes a sensation: for some, proof that Pakistan has become a violent, repressive country that doesn't tolerate freedom for women.

Malala's reaction to the notoriety of the video is interesting, both for what she says and what she leaves unsaid. Malala insists that the video, while important, distracts from an equally important human rights issue: the fact that women are deprived of their right to education. Put another way, Malala finds it strange that the international community is shocked by women being attacked, but curiously unconcerned when women are denied the right to go to school--it would seem that the rest of the world doesn't value education for women as strongly as Malala would have hoped.

It's also possible that Malala is irritated with the video because it depicts women as victims. While it's important to draw attention to the atrocities committed against women, Malala wants to prove to the world that women are strong and self-sufficient: that they can make speeches, conduct interviews, and advocate for human rights. By showing women in pain and danger, the video doesn't go far enough--it encourages other countries to think of women as passive victims who need to be protected, but not necessarily empowered.

Chapter 16 Quotes

It seemed like everyone knew I had written the BBC diary. Some thought my father had done it for me but Madam Maryam, our principal, told them, “No. Malala is not just a good speaker but also a good writer.”

Related Characters: Malala Yousafzai (speaker), Madam Maryam (speaker), Ziauddin Yousafzai
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we see Malala beginning to take on the role of a spokesperson--a well-known, even famous, figure, whose job is to advocate for her point of view to an audience of millions. Malala, encouraged by her father's friend at the BBC, writes a diary in which she describes what it's like to be a young woman in Pakistan. Although Malala doesn't sign her name to the diaries, everyone guesses that she wrote them, based on the experiences she documents. Some people even believe that Malala's father wrote the diaries--notably, Malala herself doesn't insist that she wrote them; her principal does so instead.

At this point in the memoir, Malala is a little reluctant being the center of attention. She doesn't sign her name to the diaries, and when people guess that she wrote them, she doesn't seem to acknowledge that she's the author. Malala is dealing with big, international issues, but she's also learning how to be famous--a major responsibility for anyone, let alone a teenager.

Islamabad was totally different from Swat. It was as different for us as Islamabad is to New York. Shiza introduced us to women who were lawyers and doctors and also activists, which showed us that women could do important jobs yet still keep their culture and traditions. We saw women in the streets without purdah, their heads completely uncovered. I stopped wearing my shawl over my head in some of the meetings, thinking I had become a modern girl.

Related Characters: Malala Yousafzai (speaker)
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section of the memoir, Malala travels to the city of Islamabad, Pakistan's capital. Islamabad is by far the largest city Malala has ever seen—it’s also one of the most thoroughly “Westernized.” Women in Islamabad seem confident and proud—a far cry from the submissive, docile ideal Malala sees in her own community. The sight of an entire city of empowered, educated women confirms beyond any reasonable doubt that educating both sexes is not—as the Taliban continue to claim—a death-knell for society; on the contrary, it’s one of the best ways for society to grow.

Malala’s experiences in Islamabad also demonstrate the importance of role models. Malala is inspired by the women she meets in the city, and aspires to be more like them in her own life—hence her decision to shed her veil. By the same token, Malala tries to be a role model for women around the world, acting brave in order to inspire other people to follow her distinguished example.

Chapter 18 Quotes

Aunt Najma was in tears. She had never seen the sea before.

Related Characters: Malala Yousafzai (speaker), Aunt Najma
Page Number: 218
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Malala and her family travel to Karachi, a coastal city they’ve never seen before. Astoundingly, Malala’s Aunt Najma has never been to a coastal town before—in fact, she’s never seen the sea at all. In no small part, Najma has never seen the sea because, as a woman, she’s never had the freedom to travel anywhere on her own. Her emotional reaction to the sight of the sea suggests the pent-up frustration in millions of women who have been deprived of their right to travel, learn about the world, etc. In a symbolic sense, Malala is trying to use her speeches and interviews to introduce women to “the sea”—in other words, to show them the vastness of the world’s knowledge, of which they’ve been deprived for too long.

Chapter 23 Quotes

The first two questions my pen wrote were, “Why have I no father?” and “My father has no money. Who will pay for all this?”

Related Characters: Malala Yousafzai (speaker), Ziauddin Yousafzai
Page Number: 277
Explanation and Analysis:

After Malala is attacked by the Taliban, she’s rushed to a series of hospitals. She’s even transported to London, where medical facilities are better. There, she remains in a coma for days. When she eventually wakes up, she first question she asks is about her family; the second is about payment for her treatment.

Even at her least conscious, Malala has a strong instinct to look out for other people, especially her family—hence her first question. She loves her father more than anyone, and can’t stand the idea of being separated from him by the Taliban’s attack. Malala is also a phenomenally responsible young woman; she hates the idea of placing a burden on anyone else, hence her second question. Malala again acts as a role model to readers: even at her lowest point, she embodies humility and decency, and wants others to aspire to do the same.

“Too many people in the Muslim world can’t believe a Muslim can do such a thing,” she said. “My mother, for example, would say they can’t be Muslims. Some people call themselves Muslims but their actions are not Islamic.” We talked about how things happen for different reasons, this happened to me, and how education for females not just males is one of our Islamic rights. I was speaking up for my rights as a Muslim woman to be able to go to school.

Related Characters: Malala Yousafzai (speaker), Dr. Fiona Reynolds (speaker)
Page Number: 283
Explanation and Analysis:

In the hospital in England, Malala forms a fast friendship with her doctor, Fiona Reynolds. The two of them discuss Malala’s crusade for human rights and women’s rights, and Fiona is greatly impressed. Here, Fiona and Malala talk about the way Muslims are perceived. Many in the Muslim world, Malala explains, believe that no true Muslim can be in favor of equal rights for men and women, as Malala is. But Malala insists that the truest Muslims are those who celebrate peace, tolerance, and equality.

Malala’s conversation with Fiona reflects her growing presence on the international stage. For most of the novel, Malala was arguing for women’s rights within her own country. Here, she continues to stand up for what she believes in, but her audience is much greater. Since many of her greatest supporters live in the Western world, Malala changes the focus of her project somewhat--she’s not just fighting for education anymore. By talking about Islam with Western people like Fiona, she’s also acting as an ambassador for Islam itself—a religion that too many people in the Western world regard as violent and intolerant.

Chapter 24 Quotes

We humans don’t realize how great God is. He has given us an extraordinary brain and a sensitive loving heart. He has blessed us with two lips to talk and express our feelings, two eyes which see a world of colors and beauty, two feet which walk on the road of life, two hands to work for us, a nose which smells the beauty of fragrance, and two ears to hear the words of love.

Related Characters: Malala Yousafzai (speaker)
Page Number: 300-301
Explanation and Analysis:

Throughout her memoir, Malala makes it clear that she’s not just an advocate for women’s rights: she’s a pious, practicing Muslim, albeit one who worships Allah in her own way. In this quotation, Malala offers one of her most eloquent expressions of her faith. In spite of practices which might seem anti-Muslim to many (believing in education for women, not wearing the veil, distrusting mullahs, etc.), Malala is absolutely a follower of Islam. However, her belief in certain aspects of the faith, such as its pacifism and emphasis on patience, lead her to oppose practices advocated by some fundamentalist Muslims, such as jihad and the repression of women.

It’s interesting to note that Malala refers to God as "God" (the more typical name for the Jewish/Christian/Muslim deity among Western religious people), not Allah (the more typical Muslim term for the same deity). In this book, Malala is trying to appeal to a Western audience more than an Islamic audience: she lives in a Western country, won the Nobel Peace Prize (given out by a Swedish panel), and speaks in countries throughout the Western world. In other words, Malala refers to “God,” not “Allah” because, as an ambassador for her country, she wants Western audiences to find commonalities between faiths—and in the simple, beautiful wisdom of this passage, she urges readers to find commonalities between all humans.

I was a good girl. In my heart I had only the desire to help people. It wasn’t about the awards or the money. I always prayed to God, “I want to help people and please help me do that.”

Related Characters: Malala Yousafzai (speaker)
Page Number: 301
Explanation and Analysis:

Malala concludes her memoir with a simple, straightforward evocation of her faith and passion. As a worldwide celebrity, Malala is invited onto talk shows, gets a book deal, etc. There are many who accuse Malala of "selling out"--appearing on television because of her own vanity, nothing more. But Malala insists that the opposite is true: she appears on the global stage because she wants to attract attention to women's rights and other political causes.

Malala's quotation illustrates some of the challenges of celebrity. Malala first agrees to become a public figure because she believes her appearance will aid the causes she believes in. Malala's challenge is to never allow herself to become "bigger" than her cause: i.e., to argue for what she believes in, not talk about her personal life for its own sake.

Of course, there's a fine line between being a political advocate and being a celebrity, and Malala faces an enormous amount of pressure as a global figure: if she makes any mistake in her private life, she'll attract attention away from the issues. Her only course of action is to be perfect: honest, virtuous, etc. By writing a memoir, Malala's goal is to build awareness of human rights abuses in her native country, using her own life as a "teaching tool."

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Malala Yousafzai Character Timeline in I Am Malala

The timeline below shows where the character Malala Yousafzai appears in I Am Malala. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue: The Day My World Changed
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Malala flashes back to “the day everything changed”: October 9, 2012. On this day, Malala was... (full context)
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Malala describes the day of October 9 at her school. The day begins at 9, since... (full context)
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Malala’s school isn’t far from her home, and often she walks there in the mornings. Occasionally... (full context)
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Since her father has been receiving death threats from the Taliban, Malala has been taking precautions, even though she thinks it unlikely that a Taliban member would... (full context)
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Malala runs to her bus. The other girls in her community, all of them wearing headscarves... (full context)
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Malala and Moniba listen as the young man argues with Usman Bhai Jan. Suddenly, a second... (full context)
Chapter 1: A Daughter Is Born
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Malala explains that she was born at dawn (traditionally a sign of luck in her community),... (full context)
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One of the only people to celebrate Malala’s birth was her father’s cousin, Jehan Sher Khan Yousafzai. He gave Malala a “handsome gift... (full context)
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Malala is named after Malalai, a heroine of Afghanistan. Malala’s ethnic group, the Pashtuns, are divided... (full context)
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Malala continues explaining her culture. She lives in Swat Valley, a beautiful place full of fruit... (full context)
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Malala and her family live in the village of Mingora, the largest town in Swat. Swat... (full context)
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Malala’s family is very poor. Despite founding the first school for girls in Mingora, Malala’s father... (full context)
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Malala continues describing her family. Tor Pekai is very religious, and always prays five times a... (full context)
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Malala’s family is descended from the Yousafzai, a noted Pashtun tribe who celebrated combat as well... (full context)
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Growing up, Malala noticed that, as a woman, she was restricted from traveling where she wanted. From an... (full context)
Chapter 2: My Father the Falcon
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Malala’s father, she notes, had an ironic curse: although he loved poetry and words, he had... (full context)
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Malala explains some of her country’s history. Pakistan has already amassed a long list of military... (full context)
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...they’ve traditionally been divided evenly across this border. One consequence of Zia’s rule in Pakistan, Malala believes, was that Muslims became more violent. Zia encouraged his followers to obey the law... (full context)
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...was a great success. Ziauddin was awarded the top prize. This, Ziauddin would often tell Malala, was the first thing he’d done that had made Rohul smile. Afterwards, Ziauddin entered many... (full context)
Chapter 3: Growing up in a School
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Malala notes that her mother began and finished school at the age of six. At first... (full context)
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Malala explains that Ziauddin’s decision to pursue education and poetry as a career disappointed Rohul. Rohul... (full context)
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Malala explains that Ziauddin found a way to be happy, despite Rohul’s refusal to pay for... (full context)
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...general secretary of the Pakhtoon Students Federation, an important lobbying group for Pashtun rights. Traditionally, Malala explains, Pashtuns are ignored in Pakistani society—the best jobs and opportunities go to the Punjabis. (full context)
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...more than 400. He made money on the side by selling popcorn to children. Somehow, Malala explains, his financial difficulties made his spirits “high.” Ziauddin met with a local TV advertiser... (full context)
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Malala continues describing her parents’ history. Ziauddin, now married to Tor Pekai, set to work improving... (full context)
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...optimistic. He advertised for his school across the valley. It was during this period that Malala was born. She grew up in her father’s schoolhouse, observing the students and the teachers.... (full context)
Chapter 4: The Village
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Growing up, Malala’s parents noticed that she had the qualities of both of her grandfathers: like Rohul, she... (full context)
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Growing up, Malala looked forward to the Eid holidays, a biannual celebration of Abraham’s sacrifice to God—the founding... (full context)
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Malala notes that while she’s proud to be a Pashtun, Pashtun culture “has a lot to... (full context)
Chapter 5: Why I Don’t Wear Earrings and Pashtuns Don’t Say Thank You
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As a child, Malala gained a reputation for being highly intelligent in her classes. She participated in almost every... (full context)
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One day, a few months after Malala developed her habit of stealing, her cousins confronted her. They explained that they knew about... (full context)
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One of Malala’s important influences, she explains, was the philosopher Khan Abdul Ghaffer Khan, whom she read from... (full context)
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As Malala grew up, Pakistan entered a period of political instability. The country alternated between electing Benazir... (full context)
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Malala, determined to be a moral person, spent much of her childhood running errands for other... (full context)
Chapter 6: Children of the Rubbish Mountain
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The Khushal School began to attract more pupils, and so Malala’s family became more financially secure. Eventually they move into a more comfortable home. One night,... (full context)
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Malala was moved by her father’s description of the child in the rubbish mountain, and she... (full context)
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Malala explains the political climate in Pakistan at the time. Following September 11, America needed Pakistan... (full context)
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Malala notes that many of her neighbors thought of Osama bin Laden as a hero for... (full context)
Chapter 7: The Mufti Who Tried to Close Our School
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Near Malala’s school, there lived a tall, handsome mufti (scholar of Islam) named Ghulamullah. Malala’s father sensed... (full context)
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Malala makes a few comments on Islam in Pakistan. While she’s proud to be a member... (full context)
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In the early 2000s, Malala’s community grew noticeably more conservative than the rest of Pakistan. Malala’s neighbors embraced the doctrine... (full context)
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In 2004, Malala reports, General Musharraf sent troops to the area between Afghanistan and Pakistan as a part... (full context)
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...an American drone killed 82 people in the town of Khar, very close to where Malala lived. America claimed that the drone was targeting an al-Qaeda training camp, despite the fact... (full context)
Chapter 8: The Autumn of the Earthquake
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One day in 2005, when Malala was about thirteen years old, there was an earthquake in Swat. While Mingora was largely... (full context)
Chapter 9: Radio Mullah
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When Malala was ten years old, the Taliban came to the Swat valley. When she first saw... (full context)
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As Malala grew up, Fazlullah continued to inspire the people in Swat. He called for increasingly severe... (full context)
Chapter 10: Toffees, Tennis Balls, and the Buddhas of Swat
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Malala begins the chapter by noting that the Taliban “took our music, then our Buddhas, then... (full context)
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Malala notes that all of Pakistan seemed to be going mad in the early 2000s. The... (full context)
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By 2007, when Malala was ten years old, the situation in Pakistan had escalated to the point where it... (full context)
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On October 18, 2007, Benazir Bhutto returned from a long period of exile. Malala and millions of other Pakistanis watched television footage of her arrival. Suddenly, to everyone’s shock,... (full context)
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...troops to Swat to protect the people from the influence of the Taliban. Every night, Malala heard the sounds of gunfire and explosions. Within only a few weeks, much of the... (full context)
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...at Bhutto. Either because of the gunshot, the bomb, or both, Bhutto had been murdered. Malala was heartbroken when she learned of the assassination, as she had thought of Bhutto as... (full context)
Chapter 11: The Clever Class
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This was a dark time in Malala’s life: the country was in chaos, and she felt unsafe in her own town. She... (full context)
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Across Pakistan the Taliban started blowing up schools for girls. When Malala heard about this she was horrified, unable to believe that anyone could do such a... (full context)
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...they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist…” Malala worshiped her father for his bravery and eloquence. (full context)
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...participate. A local television station stopped by the march and asked to interview the students. Malala, along with many of her classmates, answered questions from reporters. Malala later realized that this... (full context)
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On October 7, 2008, Malala heard explosions not far from her home. These turned out to be bombings at the... (full context)
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...from other parts of Pakistan to stay with him in his house. As a result, Malala’s home was suddenly very crowded. She quarreled with her visiting cousins and her brother, Khushal,... (full context)
Chapter 12: The Bloody Square
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In 2009, Malala is 12 years old. This is the year in which, by her own reckoning, she... (full context)
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...the idea that the government is working alongside them. To distract herself from her anxiety, Malala reads A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. She is only eleven years old,... (full context)
Chapter 13: The Diary of Gul Makai
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...him find a young schoolgirl who could write about her experiences under the Taliban. When Malala hears that Ziauddin was looking for a suitable candidate, she volunteers herself. Ziauddin agrees, and... (full context)
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Malala writes her first diary entry on January 3, 2009. She talks about her anxiety, and... (full context)
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...with the American journalist Adam Ellick. During these meetings, Ellick strikes up a friendship with Malala, whose English is good enough to hold a conversation with him. Ellick decides that he... (full context)
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Malala continues to publish her diary. She argues that the Taliban’s fear of education is unfounded.... (full context)
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In February, Malala visits Islamabad, accompanied by her father and Adam Ellick. Ellick buys her American books and... (full context)
Chapter 14: A Funny Kind of Peace
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...boy, Khushal is still allowed to attend classes, but he values education less highly than Malala, and so he says he wants to stay home with Malala. Malala is furious with... (full context)
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Malala’s spirits lift when Fazlullah rethinks his policy on women’s education. Ziauddin’s protests have been more... (full context)
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...are Taliban soldiers everywhere. 70 percent of the valley is under Taliban control, and when Malala walks through Mingora, she can’t help but see Taliban. On the night of February 19,... (full context)
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In the midst of the ten-day truce, Malala gives an interview to a famous Pakistani reporter, Musa Khan Khel. Ziauddin has arranged for... (full context)
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...the entire incident, and the footage is later broadcast across the country, to enormous outrage. Malala is outraged, too, though she’s a little irritated that this incident sparks so much anger,... (full context)
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...Taliban officials speak before crowds of thousands, calling democracy contrary to the wishes of Allah. Malala begins to believe that Pakistan has become a Taliban state. (full context)
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In the following months, Malala realizes that the United States was right to condemn the deal between Pakistan and the... (full context)
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...army sends soldiers to Swat to drive the Taliban away. There is constant gunfire near Malala’s home. Malala is terrified, but Ziauddin insists that the safest thing to do is to... (full context)
Chapter 15: Leaving the Valley
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...out of Mingora. The area has become too dangerous for a family to live in. Malala is particularly heartbroken with the news of leaving—she loves her home. On May 5, the... (full context)
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Malala and her family leave Mingora by car. The streets are crowded, and Taliban soldiers push... (full context)
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After weeks of travel, Malala’s family reaches Shangla, where they reunite with cousins, grandparents, and friends. The family in Shangla... (full context)
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In the following weeks, Malala settles into her new life in Shangla. She gets up early to walk to school.... (full context)
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On Malala’s 12th birthday, nobody—not even Ziauddin—remembers the occasion. Malala is hurt, but she understands why: everyone... (full context)
Chapter 16: The Valley of Sorrows
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The chapter begins three months after the events of the previous one. Malala has been away from her home, Mingora, for months—but now she and her family are... (full context)
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When Malala and her family arrive back in their home, they check to see if they’ve been... (full context)
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Malala tries to adjust to her new life in Mingora. Although the Pakistani army now keeps... (full context)
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Malala begins school once again in the fall of 2009. She is overjoyed to be learning... (full context)
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...from the Khushal School to visit Islamabad and talk about their experiences with the Taliban. Malala goes to Islamabad, along with Moniba, Malka-e-Noor, and many other students. Malala arrives in Islamabad,... (full context)
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While Malala is in Islamabad, Shiza introduces her (along with the other schoolgirls) to Major General Athar... (full context)
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When Malala returns to Mingora, she finds that Ziauddin has a major problem: he has no income... (full context)
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Malala is grateful to General Abbas for his donation to the Khushal School, but she continues... (full context)
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As 2009 comes to an end, Malala does well on her school exams, coming in first (and narrowly edging out Malka-e-Noor). The... (full context)
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...dangerous to Islam. Several of Ziauddin’s friends are murdered for protesting the Taliban in print. Malala is frustrated and frightened by the lack of progress in the valley. She resolves to... (full context)
Chapter 17: Praying to Be Tall
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When Malala is 13, she stops growing—suddenly, she’s one of the shortest girls in her class. As... (full context)
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...guests are women, wondering if their husbands are alive or dead. Throughout Pakistan, Ziauddin tells Malala, there are thousands of missing persons as a result of the wars between the government... (full context)
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...argue that Bibi should be sentenced to death. Ziauddin receives death threats in the mail. Malala is horrified—Pakistan is “going crazy,” she thinks. (full context)
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As the year goes on, it becomes increasingly common for people in Malala’s town to blame America for all their problems. People point out the drone attacks occurring... (full context)
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...it, or they didn’t know—in short, they’re either enemies of the US, or they’re incompetent. Malala finds it amazing that bin Laden was able to hide in Pakistan for so long.... (full context)
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In October 2011, Malala receives some exciting news: she’s been nominated for the KidsRights award in Amsterdam. KidsRights is... (full context)
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Shortly after her nomination, Malala is invited to an educational gala in Lahore. There, she makes an impressive speech about... (full context)
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2010 ends on a sad note for Malala. Her Aunt Babo, the eldest sister of her mother, dies. Babo had tried to treat... (full context)
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Malala has won a great deal of money in only a few months: more than a... (full context)
Chapter 18: The Woman and the Sea
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As the chapter begins, Malala’s Aunt Najma is crying. She and Malala, along with the rest of Malala’s immediate family,... (full context)
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The year is 2012, Malala reveals. Malala has traveled to Karachi to appear on television—a school in Abottabad has been... (full context)
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In Karachi, Malala attends an assembly held in her honor, where she’s applauded by an audience of thousands.... (full context)
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During her visit to Karachi, Malala meets a reporter named Shehla Anjum, who tearfully warns Malala that the Taliban have threatened... (full context)
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Malala and her family return to Swat, still shaken by the news that the Taliban wants... (full context)
Chapter 19: A Private Talibanisation
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It is April 2012, and Malala is on a school trip to Marghazar, a green valley near Mingora. Malala walks with... (full context)
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The day after her field trip, Malala has a disturbing talk with her father. Ziauddin has found an anonymous note, addressed to... (full context)
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In the days following the circulation of the anonymous notes, Malala’s classmates are terrified to attend school. Ziauddin makes a brave speech in which he encourages... (full context)
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...shrinks. Ziauddin continues to organize activities for his remaining students: debating competitions, painting projects, etc. Malala turns 15 in July—meaning that, at least according to Islamic tradition, she’s an adult. On... (full context)
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A boy named Haroon—a year older than Malala—greets Malala one day and tells her that he loves her. Malala tells Ziauddin about Haroon,... (full context)
Chapter 20: Who is Malala?
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In the late summer of 2010, a math teacher at Malala’s school, Miss Shazia, tells Ziauddin that she’s had a nightmare. In the nightmare, she saw... (full context)
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Malala, convinced that danger is coming her way, begins praying more often. It’s absurd, she notes,... (full context)
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Malala’s exam season begins. Her first exam is in physics, and she performs well on it.... (full context)
Chapter 21: ‘God, I entrust her to you’
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As the chapter opens, Malala has just been shot by a Taliban soldier. The bus driver, Usman Bhai Jan drives... (full context)
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Malala has lost a great deal of blood, and there is a large bandage over her... (full context)
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While Malala lies in her bed, still unconscious, the doctors tell Ziauddin about Malala’s injuries. Miraculously, the... (full context)
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Malala describes her mother’s reaction to the news of her daughter’s attack. At the time when... (full context)
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Malala circles back to describe her injury in more detail. After being shot, Malala is rushed... (full context)
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In the evening of Malala’s first day in the hospital, Tor Pekai and Malala’s brother Atal arrive at the hospital.... (full context)
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Colonel Junaid proceeds with Malala’s brain surgery. He uses a saw to cut away a small portion of Malala’s brain.... (full context)
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Unbeknownst to Malala at the time, the Taliban almost immediately claim responsibility for shooting her. They insist that... (full context)
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Following her surgery, Malala is visited by dozens of government officials and important journalists. General Kayani, the army chief,... (full context)
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...and Doctor Kayani examine the medical facilities that Colonel Junaid has set up to treat Malala. They’re not impressed, and they point out to Junaid that Malala’s blood pressure needs to... (full context)
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As Malala slowly recovers, Ziauddin refuses to leave the hospital. Nevertheless, he also continues to communicate with... (full context)
Chapter 22: Journey into the Unknown
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...to make any of the changes they recommended. Partly as a result of his inaction, Malala’s condition deteriorates. She develops a condition called DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation), which results in her... (full context)
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Malala is taken to Rawalpindi by helicopter. She’s barely conscious. Ziauddin notes that the Taliban could... (full context)
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While Malala is placed in intensive care, Ziauddin worries about the danger to his sons, Khushal and... (full context)
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As Malala proceeds with her recovery, Dr. Reynolds informs her mother that Malala may spend the rest... (full context)
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An intense, politicized conflict breaks out over the decision of where to move Malala. General Kayani refuses to let Malala’s movement to England be paid for by the Royal... (full context)
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After days of tense negotiations, the United Arab Emirates offer to fly Malala to the United Kingdom, using a civilian aircraft. General Kayani accepts this offer, since it... (full context)
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Furious and greatly saddened that he’s not accompanying Malala to England, Ziauddin remains behind with his family. He approaches General Kayani about traveling to... (full context)
Chapter 23: A Girl Shot in the Head, Birmingham
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Malala wakes up in Birmingham, England, on October 16. The first thing she thinks is, “Thank... (full context)
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On Malala’s second day of consciousness after her shooting, she learns more about her surroundings. She’s in... (full context)
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As Malala becomes increasingly conscious, she asks two questions: “Where is my family?” and “Who is paying... (full context)
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...Ziauddin continues to worry about his daughter’s well being. Pakistani government authorities inform him that Malala's condition is improving, and he's furious that they have more information about Malala than he... (full context)
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In England, Malala communicates mostly with her pen and paper. She asks, “Who did this to me?” and... (full context)
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...Malik, is the one causing the delay. Rehman wants to fly to England along with Malala’s parents, so that he can preside over a press conference from Malala’s hospital. He also... (full context)
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...takes ten days for Ziauddin and Tor Pekai to fly to England. In the meantime, Malala enjoys talking with Dr. Reynolds, but can barely wait to see her parents. She watches... (full context)
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As Malala waits for her parents to arrive, she realizes that she’s been spared for a reason:... (full context)
Chapter 24: They Have Snatched Her Smile
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Malala’s parents arrive in England and travel to Birmingham. Malala is moved to a large room... (full context)
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Malala’s parents stay with her at the hospital for four days. On the fourth day, a... (full context)
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On November 11, Malala undergoes a crucial surgery that will give her control of the paralyzed half of her... (full context)
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Over the next month, Malala spends long hours at the gym, regaining control of her arms and legs. On December... (full context)
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The year 2013 begins on a happy note for Malala and her family. Her father is happy with his new position, and her mother and... (full context)
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Malala concludes the chapter by saying, “We human beings don’t realize how great God is.” God,... (full context)
Epilogue: One Child, One Teacher, One Book, One Pen
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The epilogue begins in Birmingham, in August of 2013. Malala explains that her family has moved from the apartment Asif Zardari set up for them... (full context)
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Malala’s father has adjusted to life in Birmingham somewhat more successfully than Tor Pekai, but he... (full context)
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Malala attends school in Birmingham. She finds it easy to keep up with the information in... (full context)
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The man who shot Malala is believed to be Ataullah Khan, a Taliban soldier who has claimed responsibility. This man... (full context)
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Malala notes that her world has changed enormously. She’s received dozens of awards from around the... (full context)
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Since Malala’s rise to global fame, she’s been praised by many. Nevertheless, there are those in Pakistan... (full context)
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One of Malala’s most surprising experiences since her relocation to Birmingham came in the form of a letter.... (full context)
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Malala wonders what she will do in the future. She often says that she wants to... (full context)
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While Malala resides in England, the situation in Pakistan continues to deteriorate. Schools are blown up and... (full context)
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Malala looks in her mirror. She remembers how once, she’d asked Allah to make her a... (full context)