Nonfiction November Week 4: Readalong Discussion

November 23, 2015 Blogger Events, non-fiction 15

Nonfiction November 2015I can’t believe I’m saying this already, but welcome to week 4 of Nonfiction November! Here’s our discussion topic for the week:

This week we’ll be wrapping up Nonfiction November with a discussion of our read-along book, I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb. Discussion questions, my answers, and a link-up are below. In your post, you can answer these questions and/or write about your own response to the book. You can also share your thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #NonficNov.

1. What did you think of the tone and style in which I Am Malala was written?

I had mixed feelings about the tone. I felt as though this book was probably at least actually drafted by Malala. That apparent authenticity appealed to me, but the language was unsophisticated compared to what I’d expect from an older author. I also sometimes wondered about the facets of life she chose to highlight or contrast with life in other parts of the world. Although she has had to relocate to Britain, these bits still sometimes felt less authentic to me because I was uncertain if she’d actually have known these were things that might confuse readers from other countries.

2. What did you think of the political commentary in the book?

The politics generally fit with things I’ve heard about American involvement in the Middle East from other sources and I didn’t mind Malala sharing her political views in a memoir, which I don’t expect to be as objective as other nonfiction genres. However, like some of the aspects of Malala’s culture that were highlighted in the book, the cynical part of me wondered how authentic these parts of the book were. Some of the political and military events she shared didn’t seem like things she’d have been aware of at the point in the narrative where they were inserted.

3. Did anything particularly surprise you about Malala’s daily life or culture?

I was surprised that Malala had the freedom to go out without her face covered during most of the book and equally surprised, though in the opposite way, by the casualness with which she mentioned the fact that most husbands in the area hit their wives. I was also particularly surprised by how much American culture (Twilight, for example) was part of Malala’s life.

4. Do you think you would act similarly to Malala in her situation? If you were her parents, would you let her continue to be an activist despite possible danger?

I’d like to think I’d be brave enough to keep speaking out the way Malala did or to be as supportive as her parents, but I’m not sure I really would be! I was incredibly impressed by Malala, but the part of the book I found the most moving was reading about Malala’s parents’ response when she got shot.

5. What did you think of the book overall?

I really liked it. Despite my mixed feelings about the style in which the book was written, I did find it particularly moving to read about this complicated region in the words of a teenage girl. I also loved how much information there was on the history and culture of Pakistan.

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15 Responses to “Nonfiction November Week 4: Readalong Discussion”

  1. Heather

    I read this a while back in audio and really liked it. Even though it was not read by the author, it felt to me as though Malala was telling me her story herself, which I think made me not think too much about the questions you posed here. I mostly just relaxed and listened to her story and found it incredibly moving. I agree that I was impressed by her parents’ reaction and especially by her father’s support of her.

    • DoingDewey

      That’s great! I love audiobook memoirs read by their author and if this felt as though the author was reading it, I’m sure I’d have enjoyed it too.

  2. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    I confess I didn’t think too much about what parts of the book were “really” Malala’s. I was drawn in by her story, and at the same time the background information was necessary to help fill in the gaps in my knowledge, so it worked for me. But with hindsight I can see that some of the way it was told was not realistic in claiming to be Malala’s point of view.
    However, I think there is no question that she is an extraordinary young woman of courage and compassion, and I’m glad to have met her through this book. It was an interesting contrast with another book I recently read about teaching in the Bronx. Here is an almost completely opposite situation — girls are socially expected to be sexually available at an extremely young age, and though they have free access to education, they often aren’t able to take full advantage of it. Similar in both settings is the low value placed on women, and the inability to solve problems without violence. How will this change? Can we move beyond such terrible intolerance and fear? It seems to me vital for the continued survival of humanity, yet we still seem never to learn. Thank goodness for those like Malala who continue to try to teach us these lessons.

    • DoingDewey

      I agree, she definitely seems like an extraordinary young woman! I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to speak as well as her or to show such intelligence and compassion, but I certainly didn’t at her age.

  3. Tara @ Running 'N' Reading

    Katie, thanks so much for providing these questions! I completely agree with you on the political commentary; I love that you’ve questioned the authenticity of her statements regarding culture and the events that transpired during the time period of the book. I certainly thought about this, too, but just figured it was just me; I’m glad to hear that I wasn’t alone in thinking about a possible bias or bent, in order to project a certain image. I’m really glad I read this one!

    • DoingDewey

      Definitely not just you! As Rachel suggested below, Malala might have looked into the politics of the situation after the fact, but I still can’t help suspecting that her coauthor shaped the story as well.

  4. Laura @ The Buttontapper

    I was very interested in reading your response to this book, as I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I’m still trying to get a copy from the library, so hopefully before the end of the year I can get to it.

  5. Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness)

    Good questions! I had a lot of thoughts on the style and tone of the book. I think Lamb did a good job of helping Malala find her voice in an authentic way — it definitely read like a sophisticated, poised young woman, and I’m glad for any additional reporting Lamb did to help fill out the story. That said… I can’t wait for Malala to write more herself, I think that’ll be fascinating.

    • DoingDewey

      I thought about the style and tone a lot too, so I really enjoyed your post! I definitely felt as though some of the book sounded the same way Malala sounded on The Daily Show, but I wish the tone and style had been more even throughout and hadn’t drawn my attention so much.

  6. Rachel

    Now that you mention it, I agree with you on the fact that Malala would be as aware of the politics at the time as she sounded during the book. But there would be a lot of hindsight, as she was older when the book was written and she is clearly very intelligent and interested in the topic. Also, I attributed this inconsistency of tone to very heavy journalistic questioning by Christina Lamb.

    • DoingDewey

      Both good points! I mostly thought about it being a result of Lamb’s guidance, but I’m sure you’re right that Malala has done her research on the politics given her personal experience and activism.

  1. Nonfiction November: I AM MALALA and Questions on Ghostwriting

    […] a single book, I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb. Katie, this week’s host, has some discussion questions and a link up on her blog. For my post, I wanted to write a bit about ghostwriting and memoirs, something this book made me […]

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