Secrets of moral transmission: We were intrigued by Marie Arana’s book review in yesterday’s Washington Post.
The review appeared on the front page of the Outlook section. Arana was reviewing Malala Yousafzai’s new book, I Am Malala.
Who is Malala Yousafzai? She has always struck as an other-worldly figure, of a type one rarely encounters. Is this how Jesus seemed to the elders when he spoke in the temple?
It may be that Malala Yousafzai will simply turn out to have a 300 IQ. But whoever or whatever she is, we’re fairly sure she isn’t what Arana seemed to dub her at the end of her book review, which took a somewhat pedestrian approach to a very unusual figure:
ARANA (10/13/13): We know how this story ends, with a 15-year-old child taking a bullet for a whole generation. It is difficult to imagine a chronicle of a war more moving, apart from perhaps the diary of Anne Frank. With the essential difference that we lost that girl, and by some miracle, we still have this one. Disfigured beyond recognition by her assailant’s gun, Malala was rushed to Peshawar, then Rawalpindi and finally to Birmingham, England, where doctors reconstructed her damaged skull and knit back the shattered face. But her smile would never be quite the same.Good grief! Whoever or whatever Malala Yousafzai is, we’re fairly sure that she isn’t a “little girl,” if that’s what Arana meant. For ourselves, we’d also be inclined to stay away from “child.”
Resolute, Malala has never hidden that face—not when the Taliban insisted on it, and not when she emerged from her battle for survival to stand before the members of the United Nations in July and deliver her message yet again, a little louder.
“There is good news coming from the U.K.,” the head of military operations in Swat had told Malala’s desperate parents as they awaited word of their child’s condition. “We are very happy our daughter has survived.”
“Our,” Malala points out, because she had become the daughter of a nation.
But she is ours, too, because she stands for the universal possibility of a little girl.
Malala Yousafzai has always struck as a very rare, other-worldly being. That said, she traveled under the radar of upper-end journalism when she appeared on the cover of Parade magazine last weekend.
Reportedly, Parade goes into 32 million American homes, reaching 60 million readers. Last Sunday, it published a short excerpt from I Am Malala under this brief synopsis:
PARADE (10/6/13): In a country that’s seen more than its share of violence, the fate of one teenager might not seem to count for much. But somehow Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan has managed to become an international inspiration. She was only 11 when she took on the Taliban, demanding that girls be given full access to school. Her campaign received global attention, a prelude to even more extraordinary events. Last October, Taliban assassins attacked Malala, then 15, on her way home from school, shooting her in the head. In Parade’s excerpt Malala describes that day and offers her hopes for the future.The whole thing almost sounds silly, unless you’ve seen this person speak, on which occasions she always strikes us as a prophet.
In the brief excerpt in Parade, we were struck by some of Malala’s moral judgments. Below, she describes her thinking in the months before she was shot, when she knew she was under threat. Does this remind you of anyone?
Our street could not be reached by car. I would get off the school bus on the road below, go through an iron gate and up a flight of stairs. Sometimes I’d imagine that a terrorist might jump out and shoot me on the steps. I wondered what I would do. Maybe I’d take off my shoes and hit him. But then I’d think that if I did that, there would be no difference between me and a terrorist. It would be better to plead, “Okay, shoot me, but first listen to me. What you are doing is wrong. I’m not against you personally. I just want every girl to go to school.”Do you believe she really thought something like that? Do you recall what Dr. King said in real time, that very night, about the people who had just firebombed his home?
We’re just saying. For Parade’s on-line presentation, click here.
Who is Malala Yousafzai? Last Sunday, her story entered tens of millions of American homes. Again today, the joy of hate is being taught and transmitted at Salon. Elsewhere, people get exposed to other approaches.
No one can be right every time: We cringed for Malala when we read the highlighted passage. Then, we sucked it up and decided to soldier on:
ARANA: Whether an emerging nation likes it or not, its girls are its greatest resource. Educating them, as economist Lawrence Summers once said, “may be the single highest-return investment available in the developing world.”In our view, Hawking’s book is basically unreadable. Did Malala, already 11, manage to pick that up?
Nowhere is that lesson more evident than in the story of Malala Yousafzai, a Pashtun girl from Pakistan’s Swat Valley who was born of an illiterate mother, grew up in her father’s school, read Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” by age 11 and has a gift for stirring oratory.