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 to a rented house. Nevertheless, everyone in Malala’s family is highly conscious of being far from home, and all their possessions are back in Swat. Malala’s family eats well in Birmingham, though Tor Pekai feels guilty about being so well fed when there are starving children in Pakistan. Malala notes that her mother is very lonely—she finds it difficult to make friends with English-speakers, and spends long hours on the phone talking to her friends in Mingora.
Malala’s new life in England isn’t perfect. Gone are the carefree descriptions of her “goofing around” with Moniba—instead, she’s become a global celebrity, famous to everyone, including her classmates. It’s difficult for anyone to be famous, let along such a young woman. It remains to be seen how Malala will adjust to her global spotlight, but so far she seems to remain as humble and focused as ever.
Malala’s father has adjusted to life in Birmingham somewhat more successfully than Tor Pekai, but he misses his school in Pakistan. He spends much of his time attending—and sometimes speaking at—panels on education. He travels through Europe and praises Malala for her bravery and talent.
Ziauddin finds it easiest to adjust to life in England. Unlike the other Yousafzais, he’s used to being well-known and closely scrutinized by others, and he’s also thrilled with the opportunities available to him in the UK. As a humanitarian, he’s given access to larger budgets and programs with more influence.
Malala attends school in Birmingham. She finds it easy to keep up with the information in her classes, and loves being able to use computers and electronics, but continues to struggle with physics. Like her mother, she’s often very lonely. Her Birmingham classmates recognize her as an important activist, whereas her Mingora friends thought of her as a close friend. She communicates with Moniba via Skype, and tells her that England is a peaceful place, where women have considerable rights, and there’s no violence between the government and the military.
Malala doesn’t neglect her own education in the process of fighting for the educations of others. She celebrates the UK for its commitment to feminism and egalitarianism, but she certainly doesn’t find it perfect, and doesn’t consider it home. One of the most difficult aspects of Malala’s new life is her separation from her friends—especially because it’s difficult to make new close friends, as her classmates consider her a celebrity and politician.
The man who shot Malala is believed to be Ataullah Khan, a Taliban soldier who has claimed responsibility. This man hasn’t been apprehended yet. Malala continues to have flashbacks to her shooting. One of her worst flashbacks occurred while she was in Abu Dhabi, preparing to make her pilgrimage to Mecca (a requirement for all loyal Muslims). As she walked through a mall, looking for a burqa to buy, she sensed that one of the hundreds of men around her was preparing to shoot her. Afterwards, when Malala was finishing her pilgrimage to Mecca, she was shocked to see that the Kaaba—the most sacred place on Earth, according to Islamic tradition—was surrounded by piles of garbage.
The sight of the Kaaba covered in garbage is a poignant symbol for Malala: it suggests the state of Islam in Pakistan. True Islam has been polluted and tarnished by the bad examples of jihadists and Taliban soldiers—those who interpret the Quran to support their own violence, oppression, and terrorism. It’s suggested that Malala’s is the real Islam: a religion that honors its holy sites while also promoting peace, patience, and compassion.
Malala notes that her world has changed enormously. She’s received dozens of awards from around the world, and has even been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, making her the youngest person ever to be nominated for a Nobel Prize. Although she’s always happy to receive an award, Malala treats her awards as reminders of how much work she has left to do before all the people of the world receive the education they deserve. This realization influenced the speech Malala delivered at the United Nations on her sixteenth birthday. In this speech, Malala encouraged the children of the world to be strong and have hope.
Malala doesn’t bask in her global fame—instead, she uses it to fight for children’s rights, now speaking from the most prestigious podiums in the world. We are reminded again of just how incredibly young Malala still is.
Since Malala’s rise to global fame, she’s been praised by many. Nevertheless, there are those in Pakistan and Afghanistan who still attack her character. They suggest that she’s guilty of a “teenage lust for fame.” Malala doesn’t listen to these attacks—she believes that her critics are so cynical because they’ve been trained to expect as little as possible from politicians and other leaders.
Malala is celebrated by millions of people, but not by everyone. There are still those who criticize her and even condemn her. As long as there are people in the world who refuse to listen to Malala simply because she’s a teenage girl, Malala’s work is not done.
One of Malala’s most surprising experiences since her relocation to Birmingham came in the form of a letter. The letter was from a Taliban soldier, Adnan Rashid, who had attempted to kill President Musharraf in 2003. Rashid tells Malala that he was shocked to hear of her shooting, and wishes that he could have warned her beforehand. Still, he argues that the Taliban have targeted Malala because of her attacks on Islam, not because of her support for free education. He adds that the Taliban will surely forgive Malala, provided that she returns to Pakistan and wears a burqa. Although many advise Malala to write an open letter back to Rashid, she refuses to do so—Rashid has no right to tell her how to live, she thinks.
Even within the Taliban, there are those who regard Malala’s shooting as a hideous crime. This is reassuring—it reminds us that even the Taliban can’t force themselves to believe that it’s always permissible to hurt women. Malala handles her letter from Adnan Rashid very cleverly, but also with dignity. Instead of giving him a national platform from which to criticize her, Malala refuses to have a conversation with him altogether, and reasserts her own convictions.
Malala wonders what she will do in the future. She often says that she wants to return to Pakistan, but her father, in particular, encourages her to stay, recover, and educate herself at English schools. Malala grudgingly admits that Ziauddin is right—she should be taking full advantage of her time in England, reaping the benefits of education that she praises so highly. Then she’ll be able to use her training to better defend the rights of the uneducated and the impoverished in the future.
It’s clear enough what Malala plans to do in the future. Instead of exploiting her global celebrity, as she’s accused of doing in Pakistani newspapers, Malala will use her celebrity as a weapon. For Malala, the ultimate goals are education, women’s rights, and global equality, and she’s willing to use her success and celebrity to help fight for these goals.
While Malala resides in England, the situation in Pakistan continues to deteriorate. Schools are blown up and women are murdered for throwing away their burqas. There are other problems as well, as US drone attacks continue to kill Pakistanis. But in spite of the violence afflicting Pakistan and the Swat Valley in particular, Malala continues to love her home.
Malala has barely attacked the United States’ foreign policy in this book. She’s pointed out in unambiguous terms that US drone strikes are barbaric and result in the deaths of innocent people, but otherwise she’s largely held her tongue—perhaps for strategic reasons. Malala still needs the help and support of the powerful American government in furthering her mission for equal rights, so she can’t alienate them too much. Perhaps in the long run, however, Malala will use her power to criticize American foreign policy as well as Pakistani policy on women’s rights—but only time will tell.
Malala looks in her mirror. She remembers how once, she’d asked Allah to make her a few inches taller. Instead, she realizes, Allah made her “as tall as the sky,” giving her an international platform from which to express her views. Allah, she concludes, has given her an incredible gift, one she intends to use: she’ll lobby world leaders for free education. The book concludes, “I am Malala. My world has changed but I have not.”
In this triumphant ending, Malala answers the question the Taliban soldier angrily asked her on the day of her shooting. By proudly taking control of her name, her identity, and her faith, Malala makes it clear that she’ll use her fame to advance the causes of women’s rights and free education for all people. Violence and intimidation cannot silence her: her passion for justice makes her too strong to be silenced.