Use code DAD23 for 20% off + Free shipping on $45+ Shop Now!
My Story of Standing Up for Girls' Rights
Adapted by Sarah J. Robbins
Formats and Prices
- Trade Paperback $6.99 $9.99 CAD
- ebook $6.99 $8.99 CAD
- Hardcover $15.99 $20.99 CAD
- Audiobook Download (Unabridged)
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 9, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
Also available from:
Before the Danger
As Free as a Bird
I am Malala Yousafzai, a girl like any other—although I do have my special talents.
I can crack the knuckles of my fingers and my toes whenever I want. I can beat someone twice my age at arm wrestling.
I like cupcakes but not candy. And I don’t think dark chocolate should be called chocolate at all.
I don’t care for makeup and jewelry, and I’m not a girly girl. But my favorite color is pink.
I say that if you check a boy’s backpack, it will always be a mess. If you check his uniform, it will be dirty. This is not my opinion. This is just a fact.
I am a Pashtun, a member of a proud tribe of people spread across Afghanistan and Pakistan. My father, Ziauddin, and my mother, Toor Pekai, are from mountain villages. After they married, they moved to Mingora, the largest city in the Swat Valley, which is in the northwest of my beloved country Pakistan.
I was born in 1997 in the Swat Valley, which is known for its beauty: its tall mountains, green hills, and crystal clear rivers.
I am named for a brave young Pashtun girl named Malalai of Maiwind in Afghanistan. In a battle hundreds of years ago, Malalai inspired warriors with her courage. But I don’t believe in fighting. I say that even though I argue with my brother Khushal all the time. He is two years younger than me. We argue over who’s the better student. Over who ate the last of the Cheesy Wotsits. Over whatever you can think of.
My other brother, Atal, annoys me less. He is six years younger than me. He is quite good at chasing down the cricket ball when we kick it out-of-bounds. But he also makes up his own rules sometimes.
When I was younger, and these brothers came along, I had a little talk with God. God, I said, you did not check with me before sending these two. They are quite inconvenient sometimes.
Still, at home in Pakistan, my brothers and I ran like a pack of rabbits, playing tag, or hopscotch, or Thief and Police. Sometimes we rang the bell at someone else’s house, then ran away and hid. Our favorite, though, was cricket, which we played day and night in the alley by our house or up on our flat roof.
When I’d had enough of my brothers, I’d go downstairs and knock on the wall between our house and my friend Safina’s. Two taps, that was our code. She’d tap in reply.
Safina is a couple of years younger than me, but we were very close. We often copied each other, but once, I thought she had gone too far, when my only toy—a pink plastic cell phone my father had given me—went missing.
That afternoon, when I went to play with Safina, she had the same phone! She said it was hers, but I didn’t believe her. When she wasn’t looking, I took a pair of her earrings. The next day, a necklace.
When my mother found out, she was so upset she wouldn’t look at me.
“Safina stole from me first!” I cried.
But that didn’t matter to my mother: “You are older, Malala,” she said. “You should have set a good example.”
I felt shame, knowing that my father would be so disappointed in me.
But when he came home, he didn’t scold me. He knew I was being hard on myself already. Instead, he told me that all children make mistakes—even heroes like Martin Luther King Jr., the American civil rights activist, and Mahatma Gandhi, the great peace activist of India.
Then he shared a saying that his father used to tell him: “A child is a child when he’s a child, even if he’s a prophet.” He meant that even people who go on to do great things can do childish things, because they were children once.
Our Pashtun tribe believes in badal, or revenge—one bad action must be answered by another. I thought Safina had stolen from me, so I stole from her. But my taste of badal was bitter. Safina and I quickly got back to being friends, and I vowed then that I would never seek revenge again.
For as long as I can remember, our house had been full of people: a never-ending stream of neighbors, relatives, and friends of my father. One of the most important parts of being a Pashtun is always opening your door to a visitor.
In the back of our house, my mother and the women would gather to cook and laugh and talk about new clothes, jewelry, and other ladies in the neighborhood. My father and the men would sit in the men’s guest room and drink tea and talk politics.
I would sometimes wander away from the children’s games, tiptoe through the crowd of women, and join the men, drinking in every word about the big world beyond our valley.
After a while I would go to the women, to listen to their whispers and their laughter. My favorite part: The scarves and veils covering their heads were gone. Their long dark hair and pretty faces—made up with lipstick and henna—were lovely to see.
Where I grew up, women follow the code of purdah, where they are separated from men and cover themselves in public. Some, like my mother, draped scarves over their faces. Others covered themselves with long, flowing black robes, and sometimes even black gloves and socks. They hid every bit of skin—even their eyes.
But when the women were away from men, they would show their beautiful faces—and I would see a whole new world. I always wondered how it felt to live in hiding.
Even as a little girl, I told my parents that no matter what other girls did, I would never cover my face like that. My mother and some of our other relatives were shocked. But my father said I could do as I wished.
“Malala will live as free as a bird,” he told everyone.
I knew that I was the apple of my father’s eye. A rare thing for a Pakistani girl.
When a boy is born in Pakistan, it’s cause for celebration. Gifts are placed in the baby’s cot. The boy’s name is inscribed on the family tree. But when a girl is born, no one visits the parents.
My father paid no mind to these customs. I’ve seen my name—in bright blue ink—right there among the male names of our family tree. Mine was the first female name in three hundred years.
Sometimes, when I thought about the future, I remembered the kite-flying contests we had as kids. The boys who wanted to win tried to cut the other kids’ kite strings. I always felt a bit sad to see the pretty kites sputter to the ground.
I worried that my future could be cut down just like those kites—simply because I was a girl. As Safina and I got older, we’d be expected to cook and clean for our brothers. We couldn’t be lawyers or engineers, fashion designers or artists—or most other things we dreamed of. And we wouldn’t be allowed to go outside our homes without a male relative to accompany us.
I often wondered how free I could ever really be.
My father was hopeful.
“Look at this girl,” said my father with pride when I learned to read. “She is destined for the skies!”
I was far luckier than most girls in one other way, too: My father ran a school, the Khushal School. It was a humble place with nothing more than blackboards and chalk—and it was right next to a smelly river. But to me, it was a paradise.
My father did every job in the school. He was the teacher, the principal, and the janitor. After he paid the school’s bills, not much money was left for food. But the school had been my father’s dream, and we were all happy to be living it.
My parents tell me that when I was first learning to walk, I toddled into the empty classrooms and gave lessons in my own baby talk. As I grew, I sat in on classes. I couldn’t wait to wear the uniforms I saw the big girls wearing when they arrived each day: shalwar kamiz—a long deep blue shirt and loose white pants—and white headscarf. When it was finally time for me to be a student, I was so excited I could hardly contain myself.
You could say I grew up in a school. The school was my world, and my world was the school.
A Magic Pencil
Every spring and fall, my family visited one of my favorite places on earth: Shangla, the mountain village where my parents grew up. It was a four-hour trip by bus, along roads that followed the Swat River on one side and hugged sheer cliffs on the other. As we climbed higher and higher, my brothers pointed out the cars or buses that had fallen into the valley below. Eventually the air turned cool and crisp, and we saw nothing but mountain after mountain. Mountain, mountain, mountain, and just a sliver of sky.
Though most people in the village were very poor, our family always put on a feast when we arrived. Especially when it was the holiday of Small Eid, which marks the end of Ramadan—the holiest month of the year in our religion, Islam. During Ramadan, followers of Islam, who are called Muslims, go without food all day, from sunrise to sunset, to focus on prayer and to remember all that God has given us. On Small Eid, our family shared bowls of chicken and rice, spinach and lamb, apples, pretty yellow cakes, and kettles of sweet milky tea. We brought boxes of sweets and other gifts we had stacked on top of the bus.
- On Sale
- Oct 9, 2018
- Page Count
- 176 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers