April 3, 2016

Book review: malala’s book from a TCK (third culture kid) point of view


After years of putting it off, I finally got around to reading Malala Yousafzai’s book, which is every bit as inspiring as the reviews say. It exceeded my expectations in that I found it much more gripping than I anticipated, and I was surprised at how much the book documented her and her father’s journey of activism long before the Taliban targeted them.

I also didn’t expect the lengths to which she expressed her deep love for the Swat valley and her identification as a Pashtun first and foremost before as a Pakistani. Indeed, Malala reveals a great deal about the dual nature of Pashtun culture: on the one hand she describes her people as hospitable, generous, and fiercely loyal. For instance, they apparently seldom say manana (‘thank you’) because they believe that kindness can only truly be repaid with more kindness. However, the same principle holds true for offenses, because on the other hand, they have also been known to hold grudges for astounding amounts of time and see no expiry date on when one can exact his revenge. This sort of behaviour is responsible for many of the feuds that have pervaded Pashtun history.

With this notable concept in mind, I was initially thinking of writing a post that compared different cultures in which feudalism has played a key role in shaping normative behaviours. But instead, I’d like to reflect on Malala’s deep ties to her homeland of the Swat Valley from the perspective of someone who has never felt a strong sense of belonging to one particular place. As a third culture kid (see definition here) of mixed heritage who grew up between different cultures and countries, I’ve always been secretly a little envious of people who have a definitive place to call ‘home’ and find security in being bonded to it. And so passages like the ones below that convey Malala’s intense identification with her homeland and the homesickness that she feels while being away from it move yet do not relate to me:

“…when you are exiled from your homeland, where your fathers and forefathers were born and where you have centuries of history, it’s very painful.”

“…we might be the world’s best-treated refugees, in a nice house with everything we need, but we still yearn for our homeland.”

“No Pashtun leaves his land of his own sweet will…either he leaves from poverty of he leaves for love.”

Still, the fact that I find difficulty in empathizing with Malala’s longing for the Swat Valley doesn’t detract from my overall ability to imagine her pain. In fact, the entire book is full of details that are hard to relate to for many people, which is her whole point—namely, that basic rights such as education are still denied to many girls around the world.

Malala’s account certainly inspired me to be appreciative of what I have while striving to make the world better, and I highly recommend it!



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