Growing up, Malala’s parents noticed that she had the qualities of both of her grandfathers: like Rohul, she was vocal, and like Tor Pekai’s grandfather, she was calm and wise. Malala loved to spend time with Rohul, whom she knew as Baba. Baba would sing Malala songs and tell her stories.
Malala’s relationship with Rohul Amin has none of the venom and competitiveness implicit in Rohul’s relationship with Ziauddin. Grandfathers are often gentler with their grandchildren than with their children, and also Rohul might not have as high expectations for Malala because she’s a girl.
Growing up, Malala looked forward to the Eid holidays, a biannual celebration of Abraham’s sacrifice to God—the founding event of monotheism. Malala and her family would walk many miles to Barkana, a neighboring village, and Malala savored the sights of trees and animals while she walked. Occasionally, she would see a plane or helicopter flying high above the ground. Malala believes that it was her father who gave her a love for nature. Whenever Malala visited Barkana, she was surprised to find that her cousins and relatives who lived in Barkana found her snobbish and overly sophisticated. Malala read books and believed in women’s rights—two qualities that struck her extended family as pretentious.
From an early age, Malala is conscious of being different from the people around her. Unlike the vast majority of her relatives, she reads books and celebrates women’s rights to education and equality. At the same time, Malala feels an unshakeable sense of connection to her community—both to the people who don’t like her at all, and to the land itself. These early chapters of Malala’s life have an almost mythical tone to them—she seems like a child of the valley, tied to her people by an almost supernatural bond.
Malala notes that while she’s proud to be a Pashtun, Pashtun culture “has a lot to answer for” when it comes to the treatment of women. Growing up, she couldn’t help but notice that women were often beaten by their husbands, or even kidnapped. There is a Pashtun custom called swara, whereby two groups can settle a feud by exchanging women. Malala complained about swara to her father, who agreed with her that the custom was barbaric, but added that women were better off in Pakistan than in Afghanistan. Malala, encouraged by her father, read European books like Anna Karenina and Pride and Prejudice.
Malala confronts the paradox of her existence in this final section. She feels boundless love for her friends, her neighbors, and her community, but she also can’t force herself to respect a culture that treats women as second-class citizens or even as currency. Malala will return to this paradox many times in her book: whenever she feels especially close to Pakistan, some event will remind her that her home is still, in many ways, “foreign” to her.