Welcome to February's book club, babes!
2014 Book Club Schedule:
February: I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (February 27)
March: Divergent by Veronica Roth (March 27)
April: Night Circus by Eric Morgenstern (April 24)
May: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (May 29)
June: Matilda by Roald Dahl (June 26)
July: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (July 24)
August: Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan (August 28)
September: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (September 25)
October: Z by Therese Ann Fowler (October 23)
November: Wonder by R.J. Palacio (November 20)
December: My Story by Elizabeth Smart (December 30)
Here are the questions I posted yesterday:
+What was the most inspiring or interesting thing about the reading to you?
+ Why do you think the Taliban is so threatened by the education of women? Why do they put up such a protest?
+ Malala's dad encourages Malala to speak up against the Taliban in spite of dangers while the mother wishes Malala were less involved, especially after Malala's life is threatened. If you were Malala's parent would you encourage her to be a voice for such an important cause in spite of dangers or would you encourage her to protect herself?
+ Why doesn't the dad move the family from Swat valley even when it is dangerous? Do you agree with this?
+Why does Malala have such a love and passion for education? How can we instill this appreciation and desire in our students and children now?
+ What was the most surprising or shocking thing to you about the reading?
+Any parts of the book that were slow or difficult for you? Why was this?
You are welcome to answer any or all of those questions. I will kind of jump around with them a bit.
Before we talk about the book I want to explain real briefly who Malala is. She was born and raised in Pakistan, and in 2004 the Taliban came to her valley to rule. She and her father spoke out against the Taliban and championed for women's rights to attend school. She was seen as a threat to the Taliban and in October 2012 a member of the Taliban entered her school bus and asked "Who is Malala?" No one said anything, but several girls looked at Malala, who was the only one who did not have her face covered. The man then approached Malala and shot her point blank in the head. The bullet went through her left eye socket and and out under her left shoulder. Miraculously, she survived.
I first heard about her and her book when the video clip below went viral. She was on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart show and made quite an impression. If you don't have time to watch the whole clip, hit up around minutes 4:00-5:30 for the highlights.
In the book she talks about the documentary that was made with her family when they were under Taliban rule. It was posted on the New York Times website long before Malala was shot. Here it is:
First, I will say this. If you started the book and got bogged down in the first 100 pages, keep reading! The first 120 pages or so are very tough to get through because it is quite a thorough explanation of the recent history of Pakistan. I skimmed like mad during these parts. There were so many unfamiliar names and terms and had I not been reading it for this book club, I honestly probably would have quit. BUT it is so worth it when you get to the the second half of the book. Heck, if you want just skip the whole first part so that you can get to the good stuff at the end. All you really need to know is that the Taliban came in and took over the valley and that the people had many basic rights taken away- most specifically the rights of the women to attend school. All the schools for women were shut down.
I knew that men are more valued than women in Pakistan and that region of the world, but I was shocked by the extent of it. There are only celebrations at birth if the baby is a boy. Little boys are given cream and sugar with their coffee while the women are not. If a woman is raped, there have to be four male witnesses to get the man accused. FOUR! When are there ever four male witnesses to a rape? The consequence is that many women who are raped end up going to jail for it because they can't find enough witnesses to prove it. Women have to use a separate entrance then the men. Little girls can go to school, but if they decide they want to just stop going, there are no questions asked and no one bothers them. Malala said that her mom, who is illiterate, basically just decided one day at 6 or 7 that she didn't feel like going to school and wanted to stay home and play instead. No one protested and that was the end of her education. The idea coming down to them was basically that it was pleasing to God if a woman quit school.
Another thing that was crazy to me is that women have to be accompanied at all times in public by a male. I remember this from when we read Thousand Splendid Suns, it's just crazy to me that it still continues today. Malala told of a friend who lived in a beautiful seaside town, but had never once seen the ocean because her husband didn't want to go to the beach and she couldn't go alone. It is mind blowing to me that this kind of stuff is existing and happening right now in the very same world that I am living in. It is almost as if women are evil or "dirtier" by nature than the men, so they are treated like sinners from the very beginning.
One of the parts that was sweetest for me is the relationship that Malala has with her dad. She talks over and over about how close they are and how much her dad loves her. I love that the dad was never upset that Malala was not born a boy, and when she was a baby he would show her off for all the neighbors to see, never mind her gender. Her dad ran schools for women and that helped give Malala the passion that she has for education. When Malala was shot, the dad blamed himself for getting Malala involved. The only time I teared up in the whole book was when Malala, after her shooting, wakes up alone in a hospital in Birmingham and repeatedly asks for her dad. Her dad is still in Pakistan and she just keeps asking, "Where's my dad? Where's my dad?" That part of the book really resonated with me as I could see Malala's love and need for her dad- I suppose I am especially sensitive to daughter-father relationships after losing my dad. A very sweet part of the book for me.
Something else that was very interesting to me was Malala's description of the capture of Osama bin Laden. I didn't know very many details about it, so it was interesting to hear it from her perspective and to hear how Pakistan reacted to it. Definitely one of the most interesting parts of the book for me.
I think what was most shocking for me when reading this book was how uneducated the women are in that area and how unequal it truly is for men and women. Seeing the way the women have lived in Pakistan put a lot of things in perspective for me and made me so grateful for the opportunities I have had to graduate not only from high school, but also from college, and to be able to teach in a public school. According to Malala, "Education is our basic right... God wants us to have knowledge. He wants us to know why the sky is blue and about oceans and stars. I know it's a big struggle- around the world there are fifty-seven million children who are not in primary school, thiry-two million of the girls. Sadly, my own country, Pakistan, is one of the worst places: 5.1 million children don't even go to primary school even though in our Constitution it says every child has that right. We have almost fifty million illiterate adults, two thirds of whom are women, like my own mother."
The book really made me feel the power of education and made me so grateful to be involved in it. I was so inspired by Malala's love and devotion to learning and how hard she was willing to fight for it. She was essentially willing to give up her life and her entire family has had to leave their homeland to remain safe as they have fought for the right for women to receive an education. In some ways it is very inspiring, but in other ways it is very frustrating for me. It is frustrating to see some of the kids here that I teach every day who hate school, who drop out, who have no love or passion for anything we are learning. You have to beg and plead and cry for them to do their homework and they don't realize what a gift it is that they have to receive this education. They put in little effort and essentially just don't care. I don't understand how we can give it so freely to students who don't even want it while there are girls in Pakistan willing to risk their lives to receive it. The world doesn't make sense.
At the end of her book Malala talks about her recovery and how lucky she is to regain use of the facial nerve that allows her to smile and blink. She loses part of her hearing, but is able to receive cochlear implants which allow her to hear again. She says this:
We human beings don't realize how great God is. He has given us an extraordinary brain and a sensitive loving heart. He has blessed us with two lips to talk and express our feelings, two eyes which see a world of colors and beauty, two feet which walk on the road of life, two hands to work for us, a nose which smells the beauty of fragrance, and two ears to hear the words of love. As I found with my ear, no one know how much power they have in their each and every organ until they lose one.
This was a very powerful read- I encourage all women (and men!) to read it as it will certainly make you grateful for the education you have received and hopefully inspire you to be lifelong learners and to teach your children the importance of education.
I can't wait to read your thoughts on the book... I will be responding to all comments below. If you didn't read the book, only read parts of it, only watched the clips before, whatever, still speak up! I am especially interested in the idea of how we help teenagers in America to be more passionate about education and to realize what a gift it is. If you wrote your own post I have made it into a link up so you can link your post below!