Prologue: The Day My World Changed
Malala begins her story in England in 2013, one year after the day she went to school and never returned home. Malala describes the differences between life in England and Pakistan. She then recounts the day of her shooting: Tuesday, October 9, 2012. After her typical late start, she journeys to school by bus; she used to walk, but now takes the bus as a precaution. She imagines that if she is attacked, it will be at the entrance of her school. Malala takes other precautions for her safety but doesn’t really believe the Taliban will come after a young girl like her. She describes the sights and sounds of her journey home. Malala explains that her memory of that day stops near an army checkpoint, then reveals what happened in reality: two young men stop the school bus, and one gets on. He confirms that the bus belongs to the Khushal School and wants to know who Malala is. He then shoots three times, hitting Malala and two schoolmates. Malala slumps, bleeding onto her friend Moniba, and she is rushed to the hospital.
Part One: Before the Taliban
Chapter 1: A Daughter Is Born
Malala Yousafzai introduces herself to the reader and gives background about her life. She explains that she was born in Mingora, the largest city in the beautiful Swat Valley, located in northwest Pakistan. She is a member of the largest Pashtun tribe, the Yousafzai, who live by the Pashtunwali code of hospitality and honor. Her father celebrates her birth, which is unusual in a country that doesn’t value girls, and he names her after a courageous Afghan heroine. Malala introduces her small family—her educated, forward-thinking father Ziauddin, who founded and runs the Khushal School; her beautiful and pious mother, Toor Pekai; and her younger brothers Khushal and Atal, with whom she sometimes fights.
Malala details her parents’ background and the love they have for each other. She also presents the history of her region, telling how it thrived under the two father-son kings and how Swat became a part of Pakistan in 1969. Malala makes clear that she considers herself Swati first, then Pashtun, and finally Pakistani. She introduces her neighbor friend, Safina, and highlights the difference between the freedom of the boys and the restrictions on the girls. She knows her father supports her freedom, but she wonders if freedom will be possible for her.
Chapter 2: My Father the Falcon
Malala describes her father’s background, bookending the chapter with the story of her father entering a public speaking competition in order to conquer his stutter and finally win his father’s approval. Malala’s grandfather, or Baba, Rohul Amin, is an impatient, learned theologian and imam who is famous for his speeches.
In relating the history of Pakistan, Malala details the military coup and rule of General Zia, the man responsible for the Islamization of Pakistan. Under his regime, religion gains prominence and women’s freedoms are restricted. Initially, General Zia is shunned by the international community, but after the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistan is seen as pivotal to the Western fight against communism and an inspiring model for other Islamic countries. General Zia makes joining the jihad—the fight against enemies of Islam—an important religious pillar. Ziauddin believes he wants to be a jihadi until the more secular, pacificist views of his future wife’s family change his mind. Despite how hard Baba is on Ziauddin, he gives him a good education and the proudly nicknames him Falcon. But Ziauddin, who becomes more generous than his father, rejects the nickname because this high-flying bird is cruel.
Chapter 3: Growing Up in a School
Malala’s mother, like millions of Pakistani women, is uneducated. Her father, Ziauddin, believes that the education of children is vital to Pakistan’s success, and he passionately pursues his own education, though his efforts are sometimes thwarted by financial problems. He is finally able to attend college thanks to the kindness of his wife’s relatives, who he becomes very close to. In college, after a plane crash kills General Zia and Benazir Bhutto becomes the first female prime minister of Pakistan, Ziauddin gets involved in politics.
After college, Ziauddin starts a school in Mingora with a college friend, Naeem. They struggle financially, and their friendship falters. Ziauddin finds a new investment partner in his college friend Hidayatullah. While trying to launch the Khushal School, they experience many financial hardships, such as fighting bribery demands from corrupt officials and weathering a flood. When Ziauddin marries Toor Pekai, it’s a real partnership of love. Later, Toor Pekai gives birth to a stillborn girl, but when Malala is born on July 12, 1997, the family’s luck turns. With Ziauddin’s hard work and optimistic determination, the school grows. From a young age, Malala spends all her time at the school. Life begins to change after 9/11, marking the beginning of war in Swat.
Chapter 4: The Village
Malala is told that like her mother’s father, she is humorous and wise, and like her Baba, to whom she feels especially close, she is vocal. She recounts her visits to her parents’ home village in the mountains of Shangla, where her family travels during the Muslim holidays of Big Eid and Small Eid. She details the landscape and weather, and describes the rustic, impoverished lives of the villagers; men often work far from home, and there is no electricity, running water, or hospitals. Despite the poverty, the village has a strong sense of community and hospitality, and Malala has fun playing with her cousins and other children, who think of her as a city girl.
When Malala is a teenager, a male cousin criticizes her for not properly covering herself. Malala highlights the difficult, restricted lives of the women in Shangla. They must cover their faces, cannot speak to males who aren’t close family, and are sometimes treated brutally. When Malala asks her father about this, he tells her life is harder in Afghanistan under the Taliban. Malala does not realize that the Taliban will soon affect her life in Swat, even though her father promises to protect her freedom and encourages her to pursue her dreams.
Chapter 5: Why I Don’t Wear Earrings and Pashtuns Don’t Say Thank You
Malala introduces her friends: her best friend and schoolmate Moniba, who sets the rules in their friendship, and her neighbor and playmate Safina. When Safina steals Malala’s toy mobile phone, Malala steals Safina’s jewelry to get revenge. Discovering this, Malala’s parents tell her this behavior will bring shame to the family. Malala vows to never lie or steal again, and stops wearing jewelry to remind herself of this vow. She talks about the Pashto belief of neither forgetting nor forgiving; both cruelties and kindnesses are bound to be repaid, which is why Pashtuns rarely say thank you.
However, Malala decides she doesn’t like the Pashtunwali code of badal, or revenge. She prefers nonviolence. She recounts when General Pervez Musharraf seizes power from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to become Pakistan’s fourth military dictator. This event causes the international community to boycott Pakistan. In school, Malala is a top student, always in competition with Moniba and her academic rival, Malka-e-Noor. Malala enters a public speaking competition to win back her parents’ approval. She delivers a speech written by her father that focuses on the importance of doing good using methods that harm none. Malala comes in second, which teaches her an important lesson about being a gracious loser.
Chapter 6: Children of the Rubbish Mountain
Now that her family has a TV, Malala enjoys watching a show about a boy whose magic pencil can bring anything he draws to life. She wishes she had this magic pencil to make people happy. She describes seeing destitute children sorting through a garbage pile. Her father explains that the children cannot go to school like Malala because they must help their families eat by finding things to sell. Malala describes the way her family members, her mother in particular, help their community; they share food, money, room in their home, and free places in her father’s growing school. However, this causes some wealthy families to withdraw their paying students from his school because they don’t like them being around poor students.
Meanwhile, Malala’s father has become a respected man in Swat, and he promotes education, peace, and the preservation of the environment. Malala listens to her father and his friends talk about politics, especially 9/11, which brings Pakistan into a relationship, often corrupt, with America. Malala describes the varied and complicated attitudes in her country about the Taliban and the war in Afghanistan. Malala asks God to make her courageous so she can help the world.
Chapter 7: The Mufti Who Tried to Close Our School
Malala tells of the struggle between a local conservative mufti, or Islamic scholar, and her father, Ziauddin. The mufti accuses Ziauddin of committing blasphemy by allowing girls to go to school instead being in purdah, or seclusion. Malala says that she does not like the interpretation of Islam that emphasizes jihad and restricts women’s freedom by requiring that they stay home and wear burqas.
When men from the community confront Ziauddin about his school, he defends his position by referencing the Quran. He then offers to have his female students enter school through a different entrance. Malala then relates the bloody division of India that created Muslim Pakistan and resulted in the death of millions of Hindus and Muslims. She explains the disagreement between Sunnis and Shias over who is the rightful heir to the Prophet Mohammad. She highlights the subdivisions within the Sunnis in Pakistan. While General Musharraf relaxes constraints on women in Pakistan, Malala’s more conservative Pashtun area elects a mullah government (MMA) that gains support because of America’s invasion of Afghanistan and its fight against the Taliban. Violence breaks out when General Musharraf sends the army to the ungoverned FATA lands and the United States attacks Pakistan. Ziauddin worries about the growing militancy that is coming to Swat.
Chapter 8: The Autumn of the Earthquake
Malala recounts the earthquake on October 8, 2005, the most devastating earthquake in Pakistan’s history. Mingora survives without too much damage, but the northern parts of Pakistan, including Shangla, are devasted, and thousands lose their lives. The Pakistani government responds slowly and ineffectively to this disaster. From over the Afghan border, Americans troops offer aid, accessing remote areas by helicopters. However, much of the practical help comes from conservative religious groups like TNSM, which clear rubble, bury bodies, offer prayers, and take in orphans at their fundamentalist madrasas, or religious schools. As Malala explains, these Islamic groups take advantage of the situation, claiming that the earthquake is the result of God’s unhappiness about Pakistanis not following sharia, or Islamic law.
Part Two: The Valley of Death
Chapter 9: Radio Mullah
Malala describes the arrival of the Taliban in Swat when she is ten years old. Their leader, Maulana Fazlullah, becomes known as Radio Mullah when he starts broadcasting regularly from an illegal radio station. Radio serves as a vital source of news for the many people who are illiterate and have no TVs. At first, Fazlullah impresses many, including Malala’s mother, with his pious guidance. He supports bringing back sharia law, an appealing idea to people who are unhappy with the failures of the Pakistani justice system. Fazlullah declares more and more things to be haram, or forbidden, including music, movies, dance, haircuts, Western dress, and school for girls. He claims sinfulness will invoke God’s punishment.
Increasingly, Fazlullah focuses on his large female audience—arguing they should stay home and only go out veiled and with a male relative. Many women donate money and jewelry to his cause. Malala sees Pashtun women like her mother as strong caretakers. Soon the Taliban patrol the streets looking for wrongdoing, killing and publicly flogging people for their transgressions or resistance. Danger gets closer to Malala. A public notice condemns Ziauddin’s school for being too Western. Ziauddin responds by writing a letter to the newspaper, begging the Taliban not to harm his schoolchildren.
Chapter 10: Toffees, Tennis Balls, and the Buddhas of Swat
Malala explains that the Taliban not only ban arts and culture, but also attack history, destroying important Buddha statues. Now the Taliban have reached the capital, Islamabad, where there is a violent confrontation at the Red Mosque between Islamic militants and the military. The mosque, siding with Osama bin Laden, protests the government’s support of America’s War on Terror. The militant Burqa Brigade highlight the Taliban’s hypocrisy concerning women: The Taliban demands that women stay home, hidden from view, unless they choose to join the bloody battle.
In response to the killing of one the mosque’s leaders, there are a series of suicide bombings in the country, and Fazlullah declares war on the government. Benazir Bhutto’s return to Pakistan in October 2007 fills many with hope for democracy, but she is murdered by a suicide bomber two months later. Malala protests the way the Quran is misinterpreted to justify Benazir’s murder. Meanwhile, the army arrives in Swat, greeting the people with toffees and tennis balls and establishing a curfew. Fighting erupts between the army and the militants. The Taliban gains control of the area, but Musharraf sends more troops. The fighting turns fierce, and different militant groups join together to form the Pakistan Taliban, strengthening their effort. Fazlullah is designated chief of Swat.
Chapter 11: The Clever Class
School becomes a refuge for Malala during the war between the Taliban and the army. She continues to compete academically with Malka-e-Noor and Moniba. Her class of girls has a reputation for being particularly clever and asking a lot of questions. At the same time, the bomb blasts and killings make the situation in Swat worse. Because Fazlullah continues to insist that girls should stay home instead of going to school, the Taliban start to blow up schools. By the end of 2008, they have destroyed 400 schools. During one of these explosions, members of Moniba’s family are injured and killed. Malala’s father, Ziauddin, reassures Malala that the morning light helps them rediscover their courage.
Meanwhile, Ziauddin becomes an important spokesperson for truth and peace, bringing attention to the situation in Swat. He travels to Peshawar and Islamabad to give interviews and speaks to Voice of America and the BBC. Following her father’s example, eleven-year-old Malala also gives interviews, speaking up for change. Despite the new government under President Asif Zardari, nothing improves in Swat. During Ramadan, the Taliban bombs powerlines and gas pipelines, and at the end of 2008, they announce the closure of girls’ schools.
Chapter 12: The Bloody Square
Malala explains that in Swat, the Taliban rule through terror. They leave the murdered bodies of wrongdoers in the square as a warning to others. The place becomes known as “Bloody Square.” The Taliban kill a well-known local dancer for what they claim is immoral behavior and a teacher for not wearing his shalwar, or pants, correctly. Malala and her father feel unnerved and overwhelmed by the relentless horrific events. People begin to accept that the Taliban will not go away, and the situation erodes trust between Pashtuns. Some become suspicious of Ziauddin, wondering why he is still alive even though he speaks out. Ziauddin must take extra precautions, often staying away from home to protect his family.
The normalization of the Taliban is marked by the district deputy commissioner becoming a follower. Malala observes that unappreciated manual laborers join the Taliban to have more status. In 2008, Sufi Mohammad, the founder of TNSM, is released from prison. The army remains a strong presence in Swat but does not make life there better. Some, including Malala’s father, think that establishing sharia in Swat will help end Taliban violence. Malala observes that living in terror has deeply eroded Pashtun and Islamic values.
Chapter 13: The Diary of Gul Makai
Eleven-year-old Malala volunteers to write blog posts for a BBC Urdu website about what her life is like under Taliban rule. Writing under the pseudonym Gul Makai to protect her identity, she realizes the power of the pen. The situation at her school grows increasingly difficult as girls are pressured to drop out and single young women are pressured to marry. In January 2009, the New York Times makes a documentary of what will be Malala’s last day of school for a while. Adding to her sadness, Malala argues with Moniba. The closing of the girls’ school causes financial troubles for the Khushal School. Ziauddin and Malala continue to give interviews about the importance of education.
Even though Malala’s mother, Toor Pekai, is worried for Malala, she does not ask Malala to hide her face during these interviews. Malala says that the Taliban can close schools, but that won’t stop students from learning, and she asserts that education is for all people. The BBC documentary Class Dismissed in Swat Valley draws the attention of Stanford University student Shiza Shahid, who is from Islamabad. Malala and her school friends are taken on a trip to Islamabad, where life is much freer. The trip helps them temporarily forgot the troubles in their homeland.
Chapter 14: A Funny Kind of Peace
Under pressure, Fazlullah decides girls ten and under can return to school. By pretending to be a year younger, Malala also returns to school. On the way there, she notes the emptiness of the streets. The army now outnumbers the Taliban, but the Taliban control the majority of Swat. In February 2009, the Taliban agree to an indefinite cease-fire in return for the government imposing sharia. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warns that the government is giving in to extremists.
The Pashtuns desperately want peace, but the Taliban only become harsher. Someone confronts Toor Pekai in the market for not wearing a burqa, and a video circulates of a Taliban member publicly flogging a teenage girl for leaving her house with a man who is not her husband. Some thirty or forty thousand people attend a public meeting with Sufi Mohammad, who proclaims that the Taliban will move on to Islamabad. President Obama becomes increasingly concerned about the situation in Pakistan and threatens to intervene. In May 2009, the army resumes its effort to drive the Taliban out of Swat. The residents of Mingora are told to evacuate.
Chapter 15: Leaving the Valley
In May 2009, Malala’s family becomes part of an exodus of almost 2 million Pashtun, the largest in history. Leaving behind her beloved schoolbooks, they travel to Shangla while Ziauddin goes to Peshawar to speak out about the terrible situation for the internally displaced persons (IDPs), like Malala’s family. At the end of their difficult two-day journey, Malala’s family almost doesn’t get through an army checkpoint. In Shangla, Malala goes to school; she is more assertive than the other girls and does not cover her face. The radio keeps her family informed about events in Mingora, where fighting occurs in the streets. The army finally gains control of the city.
After six weeks, Malala’s family reunites with Ziauddin in Peshawar. Malala and Ziauddin attend a meeting in Islamabad with U.S. Special Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. Malala asks for Holbrooke’s help supporting girls’ education. Holbrooke tells her there are many other problems in Pakistan that need to be addressed first. In Abbottabad, Malala reunites with Moniba. Malala turns twelve, but she feels upset when she realizes her family forgot her birthday. For her birthday, Malala wishes for peace in Swat.
Part Three: Three Girls, Three Bullets
Chapter 16: The Valley of Sorrows
Three months after leaving, Malala’s family returns to a Mingora that has been devastated by war and is still occupied by the army. Miraculously, her home and the Khushal School survived despite the damage the army did to the school. Malala’s father finds a letter from the army blaming the Pashtuns for the Taliban. The peace in the valley remains fragile, and Taliban leaders are still at large. Still, Malala is happy to return to school. She describes numerous opportunities to learn and use her voice, including going to Islamabad at the invitation of Shiza Shahid, where she meets more liberated Pakistani women.
Malala is chosen as speaker of a yearlong District Child Assembly Swat, which aims to improve the lives of children. Ziauddin also continues to speak out, but he struggles to pay his teachers. The Taliban murder some of their critics. In the summer, extreme monsoons devastate Pakistan, drowning thousands and destroying countless schools and homes. Once again, the government is slow to respond. Most of the aid comes from Islamic groups and the Pakistan and American armies. Many now understand that the Taliban have not left Swat. Malala decides she must become a politician to help her country solve its problems.
Chapter 17: Praying to Be Tall
Five-foot Malala stops growing at age thirteen and worries about being too short to be authoritative. Religious tensions continue in Pakistan. Many men have gone missing, a controversial blasphemy-law case leads to the murder of the governor of Punjab, and Ziauddin gets another death threat. Tensions rise between America and Pakistan when a CIA agent kills two Pakistanis and Navy SEALs kill Osama bin Laden during a secret raid. Some Pakistanis feel embarrassed that Pakistan has been harboring Osama bin Laden, while others feel humiliated that Pakistan was not included in the operation. America believes that Pakistan is an unreliable ally that’s received millions of dollars in aid.
Meanwhile, Malala receives prestigious recognition as a peacemaker. Archbishop Desmond Tutu nominates her for an international peace prize, and the Pakistani government awards Malala its first National Peace Prize, naming it after her. Malala requests that the prime minister rebuild schools destroyed by the Taliban and open a university for girls in Swat. Malala feels happy to celebrate with school friends, but her parents worry about her safety. Ziauddin uses some of Malala’s prize money to help the family. Malala plans to start an education fund.
Chapter 18: The Woman and the Sea
Malala expresses her frustration that the opportunities and experiences of most Pakistani women are dependent on the permission of men. For example, because her aunt’s husband doesn’t take her to the sea, her aunt doesn’t get to see the ocean for thirty years despite living in seaside Karachi. In 2012, Malala and her family fly for the first time, going to Karachi for the opening of a school named for Malala. Karachi, Pakistan’s first capital and the city with the largest Pashtun population, has become a violent place. Malala’s family feels upset to see a celebratory photo of a governor who committed murder.
Malala visits the tomb of Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Al Jinnah, and describes the tumultuous history of her country, where there is endless fighting between the Pashtuns and mohajirs (people who emigrated to Pakistan and their descendants) as well as between the Sunnis and Shias. Now, the Taliban impose their own harsh interpretation of the Quran. Malala highlights other problems, such as the lack of education, the high rate of illiteracy, the unreliable electricity, and the high murder rate. Even though the Taliban have gone into hiding, they increasingly target their critics. The Taliban are now focused on Malala, accusing her of supporting Western secularism.
Chapter 19: A Private Talibanization
Malala describes a school field trip to lush Marghazar. The following day, Ziauddin receives an anonymous letter accusing the Khushal School of offending God by allowing the female students to behave indecently. Ziauddin affirms the girls’ right to enjoy a field trip, telling them the letter is propaganda from Mullah Fazlullah. But the letter gives Ziauddin more reasons to worry. The intelligence service visits him, asking a lot of questions about his family, school, and peace work.
That July, Malala turns fifteen, the age of adulthood in Islam. Increasingly, individuals who criticize the militants or the army are threatened. This reality is confirmed when Ziauddin’s friend and fellow activist, Zahid Khan, is shot. Ziauddin ignores his own safety when he visits his friend in the hospital and refuses police security. Ziauddin doesn’t want to leave Swat because of all his leadership work, but in an effort to stay safe, he does vary his routine. When Zahid Khan recovers, he continues to speak out against the Taliban and the intelligence agencies, which he believes support the Taliban. Malala gets hassled by Haroon, an older boy who likes her, an event that will soon seem like a small problem for Malala.
Chapter 20: Who Is Malala?
Malala and her math teacher, Miss Shazia, begin to experience frightening premonitions. Malala takes extra precautions at night, ensuring the house is locked and praying for safety. She then provides details about the end of exam day in October 2012, when two men stop her school bus near an army checkpoint. One man boards the bus, asks who Malala is, and shoots her.
Part Four: Between Life and Death
Chapter 21: “God, I Entrust Her to You”
After the shooting, the bus driver rushes Malala and two other injured girls to the hospital. When Ziauddin gets the news of Malala’s shooting, he hurries to her bedside, where he is joined by Madam Maryam, the school principal. An army helicopter takes Malala to the intensive care unit of a military hospital in Peshawar, where they are joined by Malala’s mother, Toor Pekai, and her brother, Atal. When Malala’s brain starts to swell, her father agrees to an operation that helps save her life. As Malala fights for her life, Toor Pekai prays. Many important people gather at the hospital to show their support. Soon, the Taliban take responsibility for the shooting. Two British doctors visit Malala and quickly determine that she is not getting the post-surgery care necessary for her survival. Malala’s father worries he will lose her.
Chapter 22: Journey into the Unknown
Malala’s survival remains in question as she struggles with infection and failing lungs and kidneys. One of the British doctors, Dr. Fiona, decides to stay in Pakistan, despite the risk to her own safety, to care for Malala. For better care, doctors transport Malala to another army hospital that is put on lockdown over worries of a Taliban attack. Malala’s shooting shocks the international community, which condemns the Taliban’s actions. In Pakistan, many people view Malala as a peace leader, while others believe negative conspiracy stories about her. Overseas hospitals offer to treat Malala, and the army debates what to do.
Finally, Malala is flown on a private jet to a better hospital in Birmingham, England. More negotiations take place about who can go with Malala. While some expected Ziauddin to travel with Malala, he refuses to leave behind the rest of his family members, who do not yet have passports. Dr. Fiona serves as Malala’s temporary guardian as she travels without her family. In the hostel where they are staying, Malala’s family anxiously wait for news about her condition and put their trust in God.
Part Five: A Second Life
Chapter 23: “The Girl Shot in the Head, Birmingham”
Malala wakes from her induced coma on October 16, 2012, far from home and without her family. While she is relieved to be alive, she is also frightened, disoriented, and filled with questions. She wonders where her father is and worries about how her family will pay for her care. She also realizes that the left side of her face doesn’t move. Meanwhile, her family continues to worry from afar in Pakistan, rarely receiving updates about Malala’s condition.
Ziauddin becomes angry when he learns that contrary to what the army claims, the Taliban remain in Mingora and are responsible for the shooting of Malala and his friend, Zahid Khan. When Dr. Fiona finally tells Malala what happened to her, Malala doesn’t feel angry or deterred from her work. Politics and bureaucracy continue to detain Malala’s family, though talking with Malala by phone eases their frustration and concern. While Malala waits, the hospital staff tends to her needs, and Malala learns to walk again. Malala receives an outpouring of international support, and many people send messages, cards, and gifts. Most meaningfully, she receives two shawls that belonged to Benazir Bhutto. Malala realizes that this international support helped save her life.
Chapter 24: “They Have Snatched Her Smile”
Malala and her family have a tearful, happy reunion. Seeing Malala’s appearance, Ziauddin observes that the Taliban stole her smile. Later, however, Malala’s smile returns after an operation repairs her severed facial nerve. Malala works hard at recovery and goes to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. The family learns that a Talib, Ataullah Khan, is responsible for her shooting. While Khan is still at large, the school bus driver has been detained by the police despite having done nothing wrong.
The United Nations designates November 10 as Malala Day. Malala gets a visit from Pakistan’s president, Asif Zardari, who explains that Pakistan will pay Malala’s medical bills. He also gives Ziauddin a diplomatic passport and a job as an education attaché. This action allows Malala’s family to stay in England without seeking asylum. In another surgery, the missing part of Malala’s skull is covered with a titanium plate, and a cochlear implant returns hearing to her damaged left eardrum. Finally, in the beginning of 2013, Malala can leave the hospital. She and her family start a new life in an apartment in the center of Birmingham. Malala feels more determined than ever to use her life to help people.
Epilogue: One Child, One Teacher, One Book, One Pen . . .
Malala’s family move to a house in Birmingham, which feels like a luxury jail far from their belongings, family, friends, and way of life. Toor Pekai suffers from loneliness, and Ziauddin no longer has his school or the status and respect he achieved back home. He knows people hold him responsible for what happened to Malala. Back in school, Malala feels happy to resume her education, but would rather be treated as a regular teenager than a famous activist. Malala’s home fills with awards for her activism, but she focuses on all the work ahead. She wants to be remembered as someone who fought for education, not as the girl who was shot by the Taliban.
When she turns sixteen, Malala speaks in front of the United Nations, advocating for the power of education. Meanwhile, the situation in Pakistan grows worse as more schools are blown up and more students are injured and killed. A letter from a Taliban commander informs Malala that she was shot not for her education advocacy but because she didn’t support the Islamic system. Malala moves forward with her life and holds on to her dream for peace and universal education.