I Am Malala

I Am Malala Summary and Analysis of Part Three: Chapters 16-20


In July 2009, after three months away from the valley, Malala's family was finally able to return home. Swat was now fully under military control. Malala was happy to find that her bag containing all her schoolbooks had not been touched at their house. They could see that the army had used their school as a base, however, because it was filled with trash and they had made a hole in the wall. They learned that Fazlullah was still at large somewhere, along with many other Taliban leaders; only a few were in custody.

Malala went back to school for the first time on the 1st of August. Shiza, the Stanford student, had finished her studies in the USA and had invited some girls from Malala's school to visit Islamabad and take part in workshops. Shiza introduced them to many influential people, including General Abbas, the chief spokesman for the army. Malala asked him questions, but it was difficult to get straight answers out of him; afterwards, however, he gave them each his business card and said to contact him if they ever needed anything.

Back in Swat, Malala's father was facing difficulty because the teachers at his school expected to be paid for the three months they had been away from Swat; however, because the school had not been taking in money, he could not pay them. The family took advantage of the business card General Abbas had given Malala; the general sent a lot of money so that Malala's father could pay the teachers. Malala began taking part in the District Child Assembly of Swat and was chosen as a speaker; they passed resolutions on troubling topics like child labor and sent them to officials, hoping the officials would be acted on these resolutions. Around Malala's thirteenth birthday, rain came to the valley and terrible floods began plaguing the towns and villages. Their family village in Shangla was devastated, and although Malala's father sent all the aid he could, there was little foreign aid coming in for this disaster.

Swat continued to deal with the effects of the Taliban, including missing persons and death sentences. Malala spent much of her time praying to be taller, as she often felt less authoritative as a short girl when trying to speak in front of people. One girl in her class left school because she was married off as soon as she hit puberty at age thirteen. Malala's father received death threats for speaking out, but did not stop. There was tension between Pakistan and America because Pakistan believed the CIA was sending a secret army to infiltrate Pakistan because they did not trust Pakistan's own intelligence agency.

Soon Pakistan learned that a team of American Navy SEALs had conducted a raid at a compound in Abottabad and killed Osama bin Laden, for whom they had been searching since 9/11. At first, Pakistanis thought their own government had been involved, but they soon learned that the Americans had gone in alone. This did not sit well with them. They were also ashamed that bin Laden had been hiding in Pakistan for nine years without detection. Meanwhile, Malala herself started gaining more international attention, speaking at a high-profile gala in Lahore. She received a cash prize of half a million rupees when she won Pakistan's first-ever National Peace Prize. The prize then became known as the Malala Prize, and would be given to children under 18 years old—this worried Malala's mother, who feared she would become a target.

Malala continued to win prize money for her activism, and in January 2012 she and her family traveled to Karachi, a large city on the southern coast of Pakistan, because the government was renaming a school there in her honor. There, Malala made speeches, toured schools, and visited her aunt and uncle. They also visited the mausoleum of the founder of Pakistan, Jinnah, as well as the museum that housed some of his possessions and his speeches about religious freedom in Pakistan. While in Karachi, however, they got a call from home that let them know that the Taliban was targeting them. Malala's father suggested laying low for a while or else sending her to a boarding school like her brother so she would be safer, but she refused to do either, believing they had to keep speaking out. Malala's father pointed out that there was new Talibanization, except this time it was targeted specifically at activists like them, rather than at the general public.

In April 2012 Malala went on a school trip to Marghazar, a beautiful green valley, and brought a picnic. They visited the White Palace, which is where the Queen of England stayed when she visited Swat Valley. When they returned to Mingora, however, Taliban sympathizers began spreading rumors about the school engaging in sinful activities, this field trip included as one of them. Strange things kept happening that summer, with people from intelligence services coming to their house to speak with them. Malala turned 14 that July, which, according to Islam, meant that she was an adult.

One day, Malala's father received a call that his friend Zahid Khan had been shot in the face, and he feared he was next. He refused security from the Swat police, however, because he thought that would attract even worse attacks that killed more people. He also refused to leave the area because of his responsibility to the school. The local army kept insisting there was no Taliban in Swat, but Malala and her father knew otherwise.

Malala started taking the rickshaw to school rather than walking because her mother was afraid for her safety. At the end of the summer Malala began to have strange dreams, which made her worried, so she constantly prayed for God to protect her family. She also studied hard for the October exams, determined to take her place at the top of the class back from Malka-e-Noor. On October 8th, she took her first physics exam, and then spent the night studying for Pakistan Studies the next day. After her exam, Malala took the bus home from school, with bus driver Usman Bhai Jan driving the girls home. This was the day the bus was stopped by a strange man who asked for her by name, and then shot her.


After a journey away, people rarely return to the same home they left. This is especially true for Malala's family. Though Swat has been declared free of the Taliban, the place is significantly changed because of the war that raged within it, both physically because of the signs of battle and death and even mentally, as the people of Swat now live in constant fear and apprehension. Malala herself has changed as well: she left Swat three months before a frightened little girl, and came back a hardened young woman, having seen the true horrors of the militancy and resolved herself even further to speak out and do something to stop it.

There are a couple of important female role models for Malala in this memoir. Shiza, the Stanford University student originally from Islamabad, is especially significant. She is a Pakistani woman who has reached the highest level of education, the very thing that Malala has spent her young life advocating for. Above that, she shows kindness and a desire to help other girls achieve the same awareness of the world that she was lucky enough to have been exposed to, which is just as important to Malala as receiving her own education. She is a different kind of role model than prime minister Benzir Bhutto is, in that she is much more accessible and much more relatable, rather than an idol on a pedestal in the distance.

Malala's memoir provides an interesting new perspective on the hunt for al-Qaeda's notorious Osama bin Laden. Western readers will have heard of this event through Western media, which is told from an outsider's perspective. Here, Malala gives the point of view of an insider, a normal Pakistani citizen who learned that a terrorist had been living inside her homeland a long period of time. The uncertainty, anger, and shame that Pakistan felt as a result of this revelation is much more understandable after reading an account like Malala's, rather than simply reading a media article.

The family's visit to Jinnah's tomb and Malala's reaction to it are also telling. She thinks about how Jinnah would be ashamed of Pakistan now. According to Jinnah’s principles, Pakistan was founded to be a Muslim homeland, but also to be a place where different beliefs were tolerated after Muslims had experienced oppression while still a part of India. The Taliban's takeover completely goes against everything Jinnah preached. Not only do the Taliban persecute and kill non-Muslims, but they also torment Muslims who do not adhere to their own very specific, exceedingly brutal fundamentalist parameters. Pakistan has gone from an ideal of tolerance to an ideal of terror in less than a century.

In this section, Malala reaches adulthood both in age—according to Islam, her fourteenth birthday marks her entry into adulthood—and in demeanor, dealing with numerous hard issues and taking on a role similar to her father's, as she speaks out and earns prize money and international media attention. Before this, they constantly believed that the Taliban would not shoot a child—now, though, that Malala has become an adult in many ways, the Taliban chooses to go after her. This shooting is the mark of her final loss of innocence. The Taliban has targeted her like they would an adult, so she must respond with the courage of an adult as well.