I am Malala

I am Malala: The Story of the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban – Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

This had been on my TBR ever since I first heard the news of Malala and what had happened to her and was one of the books I wanted to begin my quest of non fiction with. Here we are almost a year later and we’ve finally gotten around to reading it after finding it at the library and bloody hell, I would feel like I had done the world a great disservice if I didn’t put it out there that this should be required reading.

I come from a country that was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday.
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.
On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.
Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

I don’t need to tell you that women’s rights, including their right to education and their right to live as equals are under threat all over the world. Yes, in some places more than others, mostly in lands that are hugely far removed from anywhere I have ever been. For anyone that doesn’t know, Malala is a young girl from Pakistan who found herself being denied an education when the Taliban took control of the area where she lived. I don’t need to tell you that the Taliban don’t have everyone’s interests at heart either, I live in the west, so I am constantly being told that the Taliban are the enemy and this book doesn’t sway from that narrative. Malala, with the help of her father, who was an outspoken man who believed in equality and the provision of education for all, stood up for herself and girls everywhere living under Taliban rule, speaking out about the way in which women were denied the right to education and denied the right to go about their business. She was then targeted and shot in the head by the Taliban. (That’s not a spoiler seeing as it is literally in the title of the book) I said this should be required reading and honestly, Malala is an inspirational young woman, but her beliefs and her strength aren’t the only reasons why this should be read by everyone.

This book not only covers Malala’s story, but also the history of Pakistan, which I knew nothing about – how did I not know that Pakistan has only existed since 1947?! It also talks about the culture of Pakistan and in particular, Swat, the area that Malala lived, from reading this I now know a little more about the different tribes that made up the country, as well as how the Taliban came to be and how they managed to take control. Reading about life under Taliban rule was in equal parts horrifying and interesting. It reminded me so much of books I’ve read about life in Germany after the Nazi rise to power. I have seen people who have reacted with scepticism about this book in regards to how much Malala wrote herself and if any of the events were embellished, as well as making the point that life in Swat is not indicative of the whole of Pakistan and while to some extent I agree that despite her home being besieged, Malala was better off than many people living in Pakistan – there are many girls all over the world who do not have access to education. I’ve seen the same argument about Emmeline Pankhurst, yes she was wealthy and of a higher status in life than many of England’s women, but without her, what voice would women at the time have had? Whether or not you fully believe Malala’s account, she is a great role model for young women every where and a  wonderful advocate for education and this book is an eye opening look at a country that I’d not previously heard anything about.

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Sometimes Madness Is Wisdom: Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald: A Marriage

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Sometimes Madness is Wisdom: Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald: A marriage – Kendall Taylor

Hello and welcome to my commitment to reading more non fiction! Also, what a title! It certainly is a mouthful!

Irresistibly charming, recklessly brilliant, Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald epitomized everything that was beautiful and damned about the Jazz Age. But behind the legend, there was a highly complex and competitive marriage–a union not of opposites but almost of twins who both inspired and tormented each other, and who were ultimately destroyed by their shared fantasies. Now in this frank, stylish, superbly written new book, Kendall Taylor tells the story of the Fitzgerald marriage as it has never been told before.
Following the success of Fitzgerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise, Scott and Zelda took New York by storm. Scott was recognized as the greatest American author of the twenties and everyone was fascinated with Zelda, his ravishing young wife, known as the model for all his flapper heroines. Ultimately it all fell apart, and Kendall Taylor tells us why. Drawing on previously suppressed material, including crucial medical records, Taylor sheds fresh light on Zelda’s depths and mysteries–her rich but largely unrealized artistic talents, her own ambitions that were unfulfilled because she was Mrs. F. Scott Fitzgerald, her passionate love affairs. Zelda’s contribution to Scott’s fiction, which was based on her diaries, her letters, and her life, was her only great achievement–and for that she may have paid the terrible price of her own sanity.
In Sometimes Madness Is Wisdom, Kendall Taylor has created the definitive Fitzgerald biography. Written with sympathy, original insight, and dazzling style–and featuring memorable appearances from Edmund Wilson, Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemingway, among others–this is a stunning portrait of a marriage, an age, and a fabulous but tragic woman.

So, you may remember at the beginning of the month I made a plea for help in getting more into non fiction, you guys really came through for me on here, Twitter and YouTube, so I, armed with a list of titles from you all, headed to the library. Sadly, there wasn’t a single one in the library, I am undeterred, there are other libraries to try! However I did find this, so I figured I should ease myself into my non fiction project by grabbing a book on a subject I’m already a bit familiar with.

Long time visitors here (or any of you that know me IRL) will know that I bloody love the Fitzgeralds. Scott is a problematic fave of mine, I find him and the other writers of his time infinitely fascinating and I learning more about the time in history and them as people is always something I’m happy to do. This book was one of the best biographies of the two I’ve ever read, mostly because it spent a lot of time talking about Zelda, her life before Scott and referred to her as a separate entity to him. So few biographies on the Fitzgeralds and their relationship focus on her, which is a shame because Zelda was a fascinating woman, she was incredibly talented and often overshadowed by Scott – who, although a very talented author, did use bits of Zelda’s writing in his own. Like I said, problematic fave.

Aside from being interesting historically and socially, especially as the Fitzgeralds lived in so many different countries and seeing how society moved with the times in each of those places was pretty captivating, I think the most fascinating part of this book was the chapters talking about Zelda’s health, particularly about the  onset of her schizophrenia and how it affected her marriage and her creative aspirations. I’ve been interested in mental health issues for a really long time (previous readers of this blog, will know why), so reading about the different symptoms and treatments, especially in the time period, was so interesting! (How many times have I used that word so far? Sorry, but this was FASCINATING, this was exactly why I wanted to read more non fiction!)

Basically, this was great, although I was familiar with a lot of the material, I did learn so much more! The only thing I would say is that I didn’t appreciate the way the author wrote about Hadley Hemingway. Hadley may not have been as vibrant as Zelda, but she was an incredibly strong woman with integrity and I aint got time for any shade throwing!

Got any more non fiction I should read? Give me titles to add to my list!