Malala's father said he believed that lack of education was the root of all Pakistan's problems. How might this be true?
Educating a nation's children is one of the most direct ways to provide for its prosperous future. As a relatively new developing nation in a region of the world that is ripe with strife, Pakistan has not had the resources to institute widespread schooling. Ignorance breeds both hatred and intolerance, as evidenced by Taliban supporters in Pakistan. It also prevents people from having the knowledge and courage they need to stand up for the causes they believe in. As education is the only thing that can counter ignorance, education is a necessary component of any effort to build up Pakistan and eliminate many of its problems.
How does Malala mature over the course of her life in this memoir? Was this maturity forced, or voluntary?
The beginning of the memoir detailed Malala's life as a carefree child, happily living and learning in what she considers the most beautiful place in the world. When she was ten years old, however, the Taliban came into her valley, and this occupation marked the beginning of Malala's loss of innocence and her growth from a child into a mature, confident young woman. In many ways, this transformation was involuntary—the Taliban's presence in her valley forced her to become an adult much earlier than most children, after all—but the way she rose to the challenges facing her and became a true advocate was certainly of her own volition.
How does Malala question the idea that the most effective weapons are things like guns, bombs, and knives?
Malala's enemies—the increasingly destructive Taliban and its sympathizers—fight their wars with conventional weapons like Kalashnikovs and grenades, killing in order to make their point. Malala fights as well, but instead she uses words as her weapon. Malala's words, whether written like the diary of Gul Makai or spoken in her speeches and television interviews, powerfully rally people against the Taliban and in favor of the cause she most supports: girls' education. She shows that words can be far more powerful than guns or bombs. Because of how globalized the world has become, words can spread rapidly and affect far more people, alerting the world to injustices so someone can subsequently do something to fix them.
How does Malala's perspective on education differ from an American (or Western) perspective on education?
Living in a nation where many young girls like her do not receive an education, Malala grows up viewing school as the ultimate privilege. She values each day spent in the classroom, and sees education as a tool she can use to empower herself and the people around her to speak out against oppression. Conversely, in much of the Western world where education is a given for the majority of children, we view schooling as more of a means to an end, a way to get a good job in order to live comfortably. It is seen as much less of an inherently remarkable experience.
Despite the terrible things that happened in Swat during the latter half of her childhood, Malala still loves her home. Why is this important?
Even though her last five years spent in Swat Valley were largely spent suffering under the watchful eye of the Taliban, the memories of the Swat that came before are still imprinted on Malala's mind. The most formative years of her life were spent in relative happiness in Swat, reveling in its natural beauty, running freely with her friends, and attending a school she loved. The Taliban were unable to erase these happy memories of her home, even after she was forced to leave. This is a reminder that no matter where someone ends up in life, the place where she spent her childhood will always be central to her identity.
How does this memoir counter the potentially negative perceptions of Islam held by many Westerners because of terrorism and the media?
Malala's memoir indeed presents the corrupted form of Islam claimed by fundamentalist organizations like the Taliban. However, Malala herself is Muslim, and she and her family rely on themselves for peace, healing, and guidance, believing that the Taliban's actions do not truly represent Islam. Since Westerners' perceptions of Islam are tainted by constant media stories of terrorism, this perspective from an insider whose Islamic faith pushes her in positive directions can be especially eye-opening.
Why does Malala believe in the power of politics to change the world?
In the face of worldwide corruption and secrecy, it can be difficult to trust politicians or believe in their power to elicit real change. This is especially true of Pakistan, a nation that suffered immense poetical corruption during the time when Malala Yousafzai was growing up. Despite that, though, Malala believes in the political process, because she has seen the way political activism—even at the grassroots level, like her and her father's efforts—can make a difference. A good politician has the power to rally many to his or her side, as evidenced by leaders like Benazir Bhutto. There is strength in numbers, as Malala knows very well, and with a strong leader and a strong following, change can truly happen.
Why might a group like the Taliban be able to attract and retain followers?
The Taliban capitalizes on fear, dissatisfaction, and ignorance. A charismatic leader like Fazlullah is able to appeal to people's dissatisfaction with the status quo, and in addition, scare them into thinking that following them is the only way that they will be able to avoid some terrible fate. An example of this can be seen in the reaction to the earthquake that struck Swat shortly before the Taliban took over. People were hurt, impoverished, and afraid, worried that something like this could happen again and they would not be able to recover. The Taliban came in and insisted that this was the wrath of God against infidels, and many frightened people heeded their message, believing that following them was the only way to avoid destruction.
How does Malala handle the culture shock that comes with awakening from trauma in an entirely new culture?
Until she is airlifted to the UK for treatment, Malala had never left Pakistan. Once she awakes, she is struck with immense culture shock: not only is she injured, but she is also without her family for support. Though this is overwhelming, Malala handles herself with grace, and in her typical fashion asks many questions in order to gain a full understanding of the situation. Though Birmingham is different, she tries to maintain as much a sense of normalcy as possible, returning to school as soon as she can and taking comfort from her family once they do arrive.
Does having Malalai of Maiwand as a namesake prime Malala for success? Why or why not?
Malala's name is one of the many things that empower her to speak up and make a difference. Malalai of Maiwand, her namesake, is a Pashtun heroine who showed similar courage and command over words, and, in choosing this name for her, her father displayed his intent to support and empower his daughter regardless of her gender. Having this sort of support certainly played a role in priming Malala for success.