Book notes: I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai book summary.

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai



“When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.

I am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

I am Malalaย will make you believe in the power of one person’s voice to inspire change in the world.” -Audible

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Opening thoughts:

I bought this book because it was during one of those Audible sales, so it was a good deal. I usually look for any books on my wish list first, and then look for any good biography/autobiography books. I saw that this book had good reviews, and I recognized her story from when President Obama or someone mentioned that she was the girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban because she was an activist. I was expecting to learn about an inspiring story, maybe what led to the events of her shooting, and maybe a handful of political context.

Key notes:

  • Her father believed that lack of education was the root of all of Pakistan’s problems
  • Ignorance allowed politicians to fool people, and bad administrators to be reelected
    • He felt school should be available to all
  • If you help someone in need, you might also received unexpected aid
  • It is far more honorable to fail than to cheat
  • It is important to learn how to gracefully lose
    • Even if you win the next three or four times, the next victory will not necessarily be yours without trying
  • Sometimes it is better to tell your own story
  • To them education was so important, for all children, and they didn’t see how important it was until the Taliban tried to stop them
  • The Taliban were using Islam and their religion as an excuse to control and oppress people to their own desires, rules, and restrictions
  • She started to be a part of a weekly diary publication for the BBC
    • She discovered that the power of the pen can be stronger than machine guns
  • US Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Ladin in a covert operation. The Pakistani government was appalled, but the Americans said their government was either complacent or incompetent for not knowing where he was
    • The US forces could not tell the government what they were doing because somebody might have tipped him off
    • Their whole country had been humiliated and they wanted to know why and who to blame
  • Her father said all he ever wanted was to create a school in which children can learn
    • They were left with no choice but to get involved in politics and campaign for education
    • His ambition was to educate his children and his nation as he’s able
  • It used to be Muslims versus Hindus. And then they got their own country of Pakistan, and there’s still always fighting in among different groups
  • The death threats against her didn’t worry her too much
    • To her, everyone knows they will die one day
    • Her feeling was, nobody can stop death. It doesn’t matter if it comes from a Taliban or cancer. So she should do whatever she wants to do
  • Her father always told her that heroism is in their DNA and culture
  • All of her awards made her higher profile, which meant more risk for death threats
    • Everyone else was safe, but this was individual Talibanization
  • Her faith was the cornerstone of her life and she relied on it to get through all the tough times
  • When her father found out she was shot, his whole world seem to collapse
    • Everyone came together to pray for her while she recovered
  • There was so much support from specialists and doctors and everyone around while she was recovering from her injury and trying to fight infection
  • There was huge international outrage at her shooting
  • In Pakistan, some considered her a peace icon and a mother Teresa-type
  • Offers were pouring in from overseas to treat her, including John’s Hopkins and individuals like John Kerry
  • The situation was complicated for flying her out of the country for treatment because there were a lot of politics involved
    • Accepting aid from the British government would fuel conspiracy theories
    • They ended up getting help from the ruling family of the united UAE
  • She was confused when waking up and was worried about the safety of her parents and how she would pay for all of the treatment. But she was happy when she finally had a phone call with them
  • She had no regrets about being shot and had no thoughts of revenge to the man who shot her
    • She wished she could have spoken with him, but now she just wanted to go home
  • She found out that she had thousands and thousands of cards, gifts, and wishes well
    • So many people around the world supported her and she feels like she had her life saved for a reason. People had saved her life
  • She realize that what the Taliban had done was make her campaign global
  • Even though there was a bounty on the terrorist who shot her, they knew that no one would be arrested
    • The only two people who were arrested following the shooting were the bus driver and the school accountant
  • The UN designated November 10, one month and one day after the shooting Malala Day
  • She enjoyed reading the book Wizard of Oz because even though Dorothy had to get home, she stopped to help others along the way
    • The lesson was: if you want to achieve a goal, there will be hurdles along the way but you must continue
  • Her first outside visitor was from the president of Pakistan
    • Her family resisted but allowed it because he promised to pay all of her medical expenses
  • Her father was given a post as an educational attache so he would have a salary to live on and a diplomatic passport so that he would not need to seek asylum to stay in the UK
    • Gordon Brown, are you and representative, asked her father to be his advisor, an unpaid position
  • Despite the surgery she had to cover her brain and fixed her hearing, she appreciated how God was so generous to give us all of our senses to experience all of the beauty in the world
    • No one knows how much power they have in each and every organ until they lose one
  • They now live in Birmingham in the UK, and their house feels so big and empty
    • There’s always an excess of food and her mom is lonely without her social circle
  • Now her father would go around to conferences on her behalf because now he was known because of her
    • Once when collecting an award for her in France, he said that “while most fathers are known for the accomplishments of their sons, he is one of the lucky few fathers known by his daughter’s accomplishments
  • Her youngest brother said nonchalantly that he didn’t know why she was famous and what she had done. LOL
  • She wonders what happened to the mango seed she planted, and if anyone is watering the plant so that future generations may enjoy the fruit

Reader’s note: This is a metaphor for planting the seeds of fighting for others so that future may benefit

  • She had once prayed to God to give her one or two extra inches of height
    • But now he’s given her and helped her grow so high into the sky and she shows her gratitude
    • By giving her this height to reach people, he has also given her great responsibility to help others
  • She fights for education for all boys and girls, and each and every human being having a smile of happiness and peace

Closing thoughts:

So many insightful principles in this book. While there was a lot of political and historical context and set-up in the beginning, it started to get good near the middle when all of the action started to happen, so to speak. The last few sections has all the feels as she talks about post-incident, her road to recovery, and the strong international reaction and support for her cause.

One of the big principles Malala continuously illustrates is no matter how bad things are, someone else always has it worse. Even though her family doesn’t have a lot of money, she always shifts the perspective of being super grateful to God that she’s been blessed with so much, and how she has a strong sense of duty to help others. A huge part of her drive comes from her mission to fight for education for all, especially women and children.

Her and her father displayed immense courage by being advocates for education, despite all of the danger and threat to their own family. Her story illustrates how doing something you believe in for others despite risk to yourself can make a huge impact on the world.

In addition to all of the pain and oppression they experienced, she learned huge appreciation and gratitude for everything she has now because of how close she came to losing everything.  She only had the desire to help people, it wasn’t for the money or fame. And in turn, there was huge international reaction and support from around the world following her incident and recovery.

Overall, be prepared to be inspired and get hit right in the feels.


Malala and her father stand up for education in Pakistan and garner international attention for their cause after being attacked by the Taliban.

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