I Am Malala

I Am Malala Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Malala's Schoolbooks (Symbol)

When Malala and her family leave Swat and become IDPs, Malala repeatedly wonders whether or not her schoolbooks will be safe and when she will be able to study them. For Malala, her schoolbooks represent the education she has received and the education she hopes to receive in the future. They are a source of hope that she will be able to accomplish her goal of promoting schooling for all girls, not only those as lucky as she is.

The Almonds (Symbol)

After Malala gets in trouble for stealing a neighbor girl's toys, she relays a story about a time when she was younger and ate some almonds in the bazaar that her mother could not pay for. When her father found out, he went and bought all of the almonds. She says they became a reminder of guilt, but they are also a reminder to remain honest. The memory of these almonds is one of the things that keep Malala believing that honesty is the best policy.

The Burqa (Symbol)

The burqa, which is a full-body garment covering even the face, is a symbol of the Taliban's oppression of women. Though Muslim women cover their heads for many reasons, a face covering obscures the identity of a woman, which is part of what the Taliban seeks to do. Over the course of Taliban occupation of Pakistan, women in burqas become a prominent symbol of the Taliban.

The School Bus (Symbol)

The school bus on which Malala and two other girls were shot becomes a symbol of the tragedy later on. Malala includes a picture of the bus among the photos of her life that she adds in at the end of the memoir; the picture shows the bloodstains that still remain. This bus was meant to be a safe space, but, as with many other safe spaces in Swat, the Taliban corrupted it.

The Buddhas (Symbol)

Swat Valley's ancient Buddha statues, left from when Buddhism moved through the valley, are prominent symbols of Swat's rich history and, most importantly, the region's tolerance of faiths other than Islam. When the Taliban destroy these Buddha statues, they send the message that they will not tolerate any beliefs other than Islam, and that they are eager to erase the past.