Tag Archives: biography

“I am Malala” by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

malala

Have you ever read a book that (figuratively) slapped you in the face and made you realize the true scope of your privilege?

“I am Malala” does just that, which is why I think this book should be required reading for high school English classes.

Most people are probably somewhat familiar with Malala Yousafzai, or at least have heard of what happened to her.  At age 15, she was shot point blank by a Talib, survived, and went on to be the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace prize.

Part history of Pakistan and the rise of the Taliban, part family saga, and part memoir, “I am Malala” is an engrossing look into the Muslim world that shatters the stereotypes and prejudices Americans hold against the Middle East.  Malala was raised in a world where women serve their husbands and children, but her father made sure she was educated.  When the Taliban took over Pakistan and started to suppress the rights of all citizens, especially women, Malala stood up for her right to have access to an education.

Ever since 9/11, many Americans have upheld the stereotype that all Muslims are American hating terrorists.  “I am Malala” shows true insight into what it’s like to live in a Muslim country under the control of a small group of violent fundamentalists.  With the frightening increase in attacks against Muslims in recent news, this book shows the humanity and innocence of most of the Middle Easterners, as well as the fact that Islam is a religion that promotes love and peace, just like Christianity.

This book is heartbreaking, but ultimately uplifting.  Malala wanted an education, something that most people from western countries can easily obtain and often take for granted.  Because of that, she was shot by a terrorist on her way to school one day.  This happened less than three years ago.  It is chilling that this kind of violence, especially directed towards a young girl, is still going on in the world.  Amazingly, Malala survived and was only fueled by the attack to fight harder for women’s education.  She is only 17, but has already proved to be an incredibly brave and strong woman.  Her persistence in seeking peace and access to education is inspiring.

Why should this book be required for English classes? Because it shatters the prejudices against Muslims, inspires you to stand up for what you believe in, and makes you appreciate that you can go to school without fear of being targeted by terrorists.

I give this book four out of five stars for its engaging writing and inspirational message.

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Filed under Memoir, Non-fiction

The Man Who Lived

Are you a history buff?  Or an athlete?  I am neither of these things, so when I picked up the book: “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption,” I was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did.  The basic outline: a mischievous boy named Louis Zamperini learns to control his undiagnosed ADHD by running, makes it to the Olympics, becomes a pilot in World War II, spends weeks stranded in the Pacific ocean on a raft, then is captured by the Japanese and is thrown into a multitude of POW camps.  Talk about worst-case-scenario.  Because it is a fascinating true story and is extremely well written, I think few people would be disappointed in this book.

There are five main sections to this book, and each part I had a different experience with.  I read the story of Louis’ path to the Olympics earlier this year when I was still motivated to work out everyday.  Getting up at 6 am and reading this book while on the treadmill was inspiring.  I could relate to Louis’ extensive training and desire to reach his goal (although my goal was a lot smaller–just to get in shape).  The second part is mainly about Louis joining the air force and talks extensively about the unreliable, faulty planes they used.  I have to admit, I found this part to be the most boring because I have no interest in machines whatsoever.  The whole time I thought: “Good gracious! Fix these planes already!  If so many people are dying from avoidable technical issues, do something about it!”  The third section was the most exciting and terrifying.  I could just picture Louis out in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by a persistent circle of sharks waiting for a chance to attack.  I have a terrible fear of sharks, so I couldn’t imagine how you could keep calm in that situation.  By the end of the raft journey, he literally had to hit great white sharks over the head that were jumping up to try and eat him!  The fourth part was about Louis’ experiences in the POW camps he was sent to.  This part was hard to read, because it was disturbing to read about how awful and sadistic people can be.  When you think of World War II, you think of the atrocities the Nazis committed, but some Japanese militants were just as horrible towards their prisoners.

My favorite part of this book though was the very last part: the aftermath.  You can imagine that after all the events Louis went through, he would suffer extreme PTSD.  He certainly did.  It’s rare that you hear about what happens after a war, so I’m glad the book addressed what happened to Louis when he returned home.  I’ll let you read the book to find out, but I will say that he was never the same person.

Why should you read this book?  Well, it provides an in-depth, fascinating, true account of what one prominent American soldier experienced during World War II.  If you are like me and would rather learn about history through personal experiences rather than solely facts, this is a book for you.  It shows a side of World War II you don’t hear about that often.  And it is simply a captivating story.

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Filed under Memoir, Non-fiction