"Who is Malala? I am Malala, and this is my story."
Malala ends the memoir's short prologue by echoing the question that the Taliban militant asked before shooting her in the face. In these pages she finally gets the chance to answer the question, which she did not have when it happened. She claims her name and her identity, in spite of the Taliban attempting to silence her.
"Malala is free as a bird."
Throughout Malala’s childhood, her father constantly repeats this quote, reminding her that, even though she is female, she is free, and can achieve whatever she sets out to. In conservative Pashtun society, women are far less valued than men, but Malala's father builds her up from the moment she is born, empowering her to become an outspoken activist.
"I started writing my own speeches and changing the way I delivered them, from my heart rather than from a sheet of paper."
Just like her father, Malala gets involved in public speaking, which serves as a springboard for her eventual role in speaking out against the Taliban. She realizes quickly, however, that there is more to speaking than just reading off a piece of paper. She needs to speak with emotion and bring in her own personal experiences if she is to make an impact on her listeners. This lesson will remain with her as she achieves international fame.
"Mullahs from the TNSM preached that the earthquake was a warning from God. If we did not mend our ways and introduce shariat or Islamic law, they shouted in their thundering voices, more severe punishment would come."
This quote encompasses the fear tactics that the Swat Taliban used to gain a following in support of their brutal regime. They capitalized on people's fear of disaster, particularly in the wake of a terrible earthquake that devastated the region and left many of them with nothing. It was up to activists like Malala and her father to break through this fear and make it clear to the people of Swat that they did not have to live this way.
"The Taliban could take our pens and books, but they could not stop our minds from thinking."
This quote is in response to the Taliban's attempt to halt girls' education and close their schools. Though Malala is devastated to hear that her school would close, she knows that the kind of learning the Taliban fears does not need to be done within the walls of a classroom. She can keep learning in all areas of her life, and will always be able to triumph over the ignorance and fear that the Taliban feeds off of.
"On 5 May 2009 we became IDPs. Internally displaced persons. It sounded like a disease."
So much of Malala's identity revolved around Swat Valley, her beloved home where she spent her entire early life. This makes leaving Swat—not of her own accord, but because the Taliban forced her family out—especially difficult. It is made even worse because at that point, she did not know for sure whether she would ever return.
"As we crossed the Malakand Pass I saw a young girl selling oranges. She was scratching marks on a piece of paper with a pencil to account for the oranges she had sold as she could not read or write. I took a photo of her and vowed I would do everything in my power to help educate girls like her. This was the war I was going to fight."
In speaking out for education, Malala was never motivated by a desire for fame or fortune. She knew that she had grown up fortunate to be able to attend school and learn, while many other girls around her did not have the privilege of receiving an education. It is moments like these—observing the people around her—when she remembers what she is truly fighting for, and why it is all worth it.
"Tell me how can one live without daughters."
When Malala is shot, her father feels like he has lost a part of himself. He believes this was why the Taliban targeted her: because by killing her, they would break him as well. This question, which he asks over the phone to a friend who had lost a daughter, encompasses the deep love he has felt for Malala since the day she was born, as well as the pride he takes in her activism and courage to speak out.
"I didn't realize then I wouldn't be going home."
This is a reminder of the dark side to Malala's newfound fame and life of comfort. Swat has always been very important to her, and Pakistan was all she knew growing up. After her shooting, however, many people from home doubted her authenticity and would not welcome her. Her own home had become too dangerous, and although she escaped the danger, this meant staying away from the place that had raised her. Nothing would ever be the same.
"I am Malala. My world has changed but I have not."
Malala ends her memoir almost the same way that she started it, answering the question that came to define her life when the Taliban asked for her in the back of the bus. She once again lays claim to her identity, and acknowledges that even though she leads an entirely different life now, she still maintains the values, principles, and goals that she has nurtured throughout her entire life.
I Am Malala Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for I Am Malala is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Malala adored education. She had always been captivated by it. Her father encouraged this in his daughter. When the Taliban closed her school, Malala was broken hearted and studied at home. It is difficult to generalize, but I suspect that some...
Malala gets her passion for education, especially girls' education from her father. Much like her father, Malala stands up for what she knows is right. Malala refuses to be silent about education. Although the Taliban have threatened both her...