"I Am Malala" by Malala Yousafzai, Prologue–Part One

July 23, 2015
An ordinary Pakistani girl is shot by the Taliban while fighting for her right to an education. In this memoir, Malala Yousafzai, the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, tells her story.

Here are links to our lists for the book: Prologue–Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five–Epilogue
He was asking how things were at the Khushal School for Girls, which he founded and I attended, but I always took the opportunity to answer the question literally.
My youngest brother, Atal, was in an especially cheeky mood that morning.
All this banter nearly made me late, and I raced out the door, my half-eaten breakfast still on the table.
As the structure of the example sentence suggests, "chaos" and "hushed concentration" are opposite states. But they are also both used here to emphasize the freedoms of the city, where cars and factories can make lots of noise, while girls are allowed to test their knowledge in school. This scene sets up a contrast with the shooting.
The chaos of Mingora city surrounded us with its honking horns and factory noises while we worked silently, bent over our papers in hushed concentration.
Here are other examples of Malala's opinions: "I like cupcakes but not candy. And I don’t think dark chocolate should be called chocolate at all. I hate eggplant and green peppers, but I love pizza." These statements show that she knows her heart and mind, unlike the fictional Bella, and she would not waste her freedom with fickleness.
I think Bella from Twilight is too fickle, and I don’t understand why she would choose that boring Edward.
Swat was known for its beauty, and tourists came from all over to see its tall mountains, lush green hills, and crystal-clear rivers.
I’m named for the great young Pashtun heroine Malalai, who inspired her countrymen with her courage.
So I guess you could say that when Khushal fights with me, I oblige him.
They are quite inconvenient sometimes, I told God.
Instead, he consoled me by telling me about the mistakes great heroes had made when they were children.
Malala's father is gentle and educated, so his choice of a pacifist as a hero is not surprising. What makes him different from many Pakistani fathers is his recognition that all heroes started out as children who made mistakes, so all children, including daughters, can grow up to be heroes who make a difference.
Heroes like Mahatma Gandhi, the great pacifist, and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.
Badal is part of the Pashtunwali code; it is "a tradition of revenge—where one insult must be answered by another, one death by another, and on and on it goes." Vowing never to partake in this tradition, just as she vowed never to cover her face with a veil, shows Malala's pacifistic will, which developed from the freedoms she grew up with and which was strengthened by her encounters with the Taliban.
I vowed then that I would never partake in badal.
That’s because one of the most important parts of the Pashtunwali code is hospitality. As a Pashtun, you always open your door to a visitor.
My mother and the women would gather on our veranda at the back of the house and cook and laugh and talk about new clothes, jewelry, and other ladies in the neighborhood
"Raucous" means "disturbing the public peace; loud and rough." It also means "unpleasantly loud and harsh" but this second definition doesn't fit, because Malala enjoys hearing the soft, tinkling laughter as well as the rough and noisy kind. Both levels of laughter from women who can be publicly seen and heard are signs of their freedom.
Tinkling laughter sometimes. Raucous, uproarious laughter sometimes.
"Stunning" also means "causing great astonishment or shock." Both definitions fit. The women look stunning without their headscarves and veils, but Malala is stunned because she is used to seeing them covered.
But most stunning of all: The women’s headscarves and veils were gone. Their long dark hair and pretty faces—made up with lipstick and henna—were lovely to see.
But to see these women chatting casually—their faces radiant with freedom—was to see a whole new world.
Compare with the definition and example sentence for "cheeky." The cheekiness that Atal showed had less to do with being bold and more with being rude. But Malala was accused by some relatives of being cheeky when she boldly decided that living under wraps is unfair, so she will never cover her cheeks with a veil.
Our relatives thought I was very bold. (Some said rude.)
It was an exciting game, full of unpredictable escapes and plunges.
It was beautiful, and also a bit melancholy for me to see the pretty kites sputter to the ground.
As I watched my brothers run up to the roof to launch their kites, I wondered how free I could ever really be.
"Destined" also means "governed by fate." Although Malala and her family believe that God has a role in their lives, they also believe that each person has to work hard to be successful. This can be seen in the father's encouragement: "Carry on with your dreams" because “I will protect your freedom, Malala."
“Look at this girl,” he’d say. “She is destined for the skies!”
Even when I was only seven or eight, I was considered a sophisticated city girl, and sometimes my cousins teased me because I didn’t like to go barefoot and I wore clothes bought at the bazaar, not homemade like theirs.
It is not at all uncommon for women in my country to be illiterate, but to see my mother, a proud and intelligent woman, struggle to read the prices in the bazaar was an unspoken sadness for both of us, I think.
"Severe" also means "austerely simple" and this could describe the lack of colors and designs in the loose outer garment. But the tone of the example sentence, with its focus on covering everything and its connection to burned schools, suggests the chosen definition. To Malala, a severe form of burqa is a severe loss of freedom, and that is very bad.
Schools for girls had been burned to the ground, and all women were forced to wear a severe form of burqa, a head-to-toe veil that had only a tiny fabric grille for their eyes.
Women were banned from laughing out loud or wearing nail polish, and they were beaten or jailed for walking without a male family member.
That’s when I became obsessed with owning a magic pencil.
“I am representing good Muslims,” the mufti said. “And we all think your girls’ high school is a blasphemy.
So my father came up with a compromise: The older girls would enter through a different gate.
Her name was Malka-e-Noor, and she was bright and determined, but I did not think she was nearly as clever as me.

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