I Am Malala

I Am Malala Themes

The Power of Education

This theme is the central focus of all of Malala's activism. Growing up in and around a school, Malala learned quickly the power that education has to shape a child's life, determine their future prospects, and give them the courage to speak up for what they believe in. It was because of her education that Malala was empowered to stand strong against the Taliban occupation of her home, and she has used her fame to try to give as many other children as possible the opportunity to go to school.

Activism and Change

As Malala and her father note repeatedly, it would be easy to stop speaking out, fly under the radar, and allow the Taliban and its brutal regime to continue pushing them around. This, however, would go against their belief in the power that social and political activism has to elicit social change. Malala and her father's constant willingness to speak out—and the way they actually manage to change things for the better—is a shining example of how grassroots activism can make a difference.


Despite the terrible things going on in their home, Malala's family remains closely bonded, and these deep bonds make all the difference as they deal with change and hardship. Malala's parents are role models for how she hopes to carry herself, and her brothers are a source of love, comfort, and familiarity. The strength of the Yousafzai family bonds are particularly evident in the aftermath of Malala's shooting, as her family remains by her side even as she is taken to a different, strange country to recover.

Religion and Faith

Malala's faith, Islam, is a central part of her life. Her family's faith keeps them going throughout the rough times they face when their valley is taken over by the Taliban, even though it is difficult to maintain perspective when the Taliban themselves are claiming to represent Islam. Malala never lets go of her certainty that Islam is peaceful and tolerant, and her experience paints a much clearer picture of a faith that is so often clouded by media reports and acts of terror.

Childhood and Maturity

Because this is a memoir covering Malala's life from birth to sixteen years old, it contains many of the moments that defined her coming-of-age. She was able to have a primarily carefree childhood, living in a beautiful place, attending school, and surrounded by people who love her. Things changed when she was ten years old and the Taliban came to her valley, and she was forced to grow up very quickly and watch so many around her suffer. Malala matured gracefully, becoming an advocate for so many who were afraid or unwilling to speak out.


Living in a country where corruption, secrets, and lies are common occurrences within the government, it is easy for Malala to distrust those around her. One of the most important lessons instilled in her by her parents is that honesty is the best policy, and she learns this by feeling shame after stealing from her neighbor as revenge. From then on, Malala makes a point to always be honest, even though others may not be. This is just one of the many values that shape her character.


Malala's father constantly tells her that she is as free as a bird. Under the Taliban, freedom is practically nonexistent: people are controlled in every way, from how they dress to how they worship, with the fear of death as a motivator to follow the Taliban's law. Women are particularly controlled, and though Malala has been lucky enough to receive an education, she still feels this confinement when the Taliban takes over her home. This experience is why she consistently fights for freedom, both for young girls and for people as a whole.