Malala is an icon, renowned for her support for education and women’s rights. As a result, one of the most prominent themes in I Am Malala is the theme of fame itself: how heroes and role models, known by millions of people they’ve never met, can contribute to change or distract from it.
From a young age, Malala is surrounded by good role models. Her paternal grandfather, Rohul Amin, is a famously brilliant speaker and rhetorician, capable of bringing any audience to cheers. Her father, Ziauddin, is an even more impressive man: a great speaker and journalist, as well as the founder of a large chain of schools that offer cheap, comprehensive education to thousands of boys and girls. When Malala begins to take steps to fight for education and women’s rights as a young girl, she does so anonymously: she’s still in the shadow of her role models, especially her father. At the age of 11, she writes a series of diary entries for the BBC, using a pseudonym to protect herself from harassment from the Taliban, the group she criticizes in her diary.
As Malala grows up and accumulates an increasingly impressive resume of fighting for political causes, she inevitably begins to rise to prominence, with somewhat mixed results. Humanitarian organizations give her lavish awards, often for many thousands of dollars, singling her out for her bravery and integrity. However, Malala’s first efforts at “being famous” are clumsy and uneven, as she herself acknowledges. She complains that traveling to accept lots of awards is actually counterproductive, because it distracts her from writing articles and making radio broadcasts in support of the causes she’s supposed to be fighting for. Fame can also be misleading: by accepting an award for her humanitarian work, Malala gives the impression that she, and she alone, is responsible for changing the status quo in Pakistan. Malala readily admits that this is nonsense: she’s been helped along by dozens of other people, including her father and her teachers.
Although Malala recognizes that fame has some disadvantages, she ultimately embraces her global fame because it gives her a platform from which she can continue her political projects. In a sense, the Taliban attack that nearly claims Malala’s life forces her to be famous. A Taliban soldier climbs onboard Malala’s bus and asks, “Who is Malala?” When it becomes obvious who Malala is, the soldier shoots her. This incident makes Malala even more famous than she was before. She becomes a martyr, wounded for bravely going to school. In the aftermath of her shooting, Malala proves that she has learned some valuable lessons about how to be a role model for other people. Instead of using I Am Malala to trumpet her own brilliance, Malala humbly admits that she owes her success to many other people: the surgeons who saved her life, her father, the journalists who published her work, etc. Nor does Malala let her fame distract her from her political goals. On the contrary, her fame becomes a part of her political project, as she realizes that she can use it to increase awareness of the situation of women in Pakistan.
In the end, Malala recognizes that being a role model for millions of people can be challenging, and sometimes counterproductive. Yet she also realizes that this level of fame can be a powerful political weapon, one that she’d be foolish not to use to her advantage. Thus, for the good of her cause, she “chooses” to be famous, a choice that’s boldly apparent in the title of her book: I Am Malala.
Fame, Power, and the Importance of Role Models ThemeTracker
Fame, Power, and the Importance of Role Models Quotes in I Am Malala
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.
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.”
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.”
“Go and ask the manager of the White Palace Hotel and he will tell you what these girls did…”
He put down the paper. “It has no signature. Anonymous.”
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.
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.”