Letter to Malala: An Ode to Girl Power

[Jon and I have been part of a book club since Ted and Anne Gleason, who are no longer with us, started the group—they called us the Oracles. Each year we pick a theme and at the end of the season we raise a toast to Ted and Anne and share essays about our reading. Our theme this time around was memoir and the selections included "Evicted," "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," "Walden," "Hillbilly Elegy," "The Year of Magical Thinking," "I Am Malala," and "Just Mercy." My essay was a letter to Malala:]

Dear Malala,

We see so that we may believe. We listen so that we may know. And we read so that we may understand.

Yours—we thought—was a tragic story. Of bad dreams and betrayal, cruelty and exile. Death threats. “Flames of militancy.” Fear and terror. Blood spewing from the head and ear. Hatred and pain.

Yours—we thought—was a tragic story.

Or not.

Doubt trickles in. Like rain drops in an ever-expanding puddle.

Or is it more like sun rays that multiply?

Looking at your face on the cover of your book I want to smile. You show us through your life that “if people were silent, nothing would change.”

You show us how to be generous. In your culture visitors are welcome whenever they turn up and they stay as long as they wish.

You learned from Jinnah “there are two powers in the world: one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a third power stronger than both, that of women.”

Born into a society where daughters “are hidden away by a curtain,” you—like your father—spoke out for girls’ education.

You found that to live and love life—to have a second life—you must find a purpose.

You want to be remembered not as “the girl who was shot by the Taliban, but as “the girl who fought for education.”

Your love of family and home brings us closer to our own.

You keep hope alive. To doubt can be a good thing and nothing is certain.