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Once a carefree girl

Published: 
Saturday, September 27, 2014

Malala says that she was reading the Twilight books by Stephenie Meyer and longing to be a vampire when the Taliban arrived in her village. With the pain and longing that nostalgia brings, Malala, the teenage girl who wrote I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, shows Sunday Arts Section (SAS) Book Club readers how the freedom she cherished vanished from her life. As a carefree girl who had a father who promised she would always be free as a bird, Malala did not cover her head as traditional Pakistani women did. She relied on her father to stand up to the ultra-conservative mullahs who complained. 

But everything changed, Malala tells readers, after 9/11 when the World Trade Center towers crumbled to the ground after terrorists flew airplanes into those New York skyscrapers. It wasn’t a change that happened over night. Some of those vast changes came unexpectedly.  A devastating 7.6 earthquake on October 8, 2005 helped to create more confusion in the region and push innocent orphaned children into the arms of terrorists. With whole families wiped out, Malala tells us, the madrasas (Islamic schools) took in these children when the government failed to support them. Eventually they were fed into the terrorist system. The fragile peace of the region, which came from little or no government interference in an area where tribes ruled, became shattered when government troops arrived as Americans stepped up the war in Afghanistan. Pakistani troops often refused to bear arms against their tribespeople. 

Malala’s ability to take a complicated piece of history and show its affect on her life and her country is a remarkable feat. Her autobiographical tale of first-hand political terror is a riveting read for any book club and any teenager who takes the simple freedoms in life we take for granted: boys dating girls; boys going to parties with girls; girls being educated with boys in school—even girls being allowed to receive an education. With detailed description that vividly makes her story come alive, Malala shows how the Taliban taking over Afghanistan and her area of Pakistan, which shares roots with Afghanistan, eventually changed the world’s perception of Islam. Malala’s story is notably objective. She often shows readers what her life is like and allows readers to make their own judgments. She presents her flaws as well as her strengths.  
            
Discussion Questions

1. Nostalgia is a feeling that comes later in life when older people look back on the good things in life that are gone. In her book, Malala looks back on her early life in Pakistan with nostalgia. Do you think teenagers are capable of nostalgia? 

2. Malala’s story is about vanishing freedoms such as the imposition of restrictions on the way Pakistani women are allowed to dress or interact with others. Do you think these conservative movements associated with the Middle East can spread to any country?  
 
3. How would you feel if your daughter could no longer attend school? Would you take the chance to educate her secretly if it was against the law?  

Join us on the SAS Book Club group on Facebook to discuss I Am Malala, and get ready for our October SAS Book Club choice: The Secret Life of Sleep by Kat Duff.

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