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Let Her Fly. A Father’s Journey and the Fight for Equality by Ziauddin Yousafzai

Published by Penguin Books Australia

REVIEW BY CALLIE STEVEN

This is a gem of a book. The forward by famous daughter Malala is inspiring enough, but her father’s words prove to be even more so. Throughout this slim autobiographical volume, Ziauddin's voice is clear and determined, and you find yourself wondering why more people can’t be like this man.  

The reader is slowly drawn into Yousafzai’s world in the Swat Valley in Pakistan and becomes familiar with the way he sees it through sections entitled ‘Father’, ‘Sons’, ‘Wife and Best Friend’ and ‘Daughter’. One of the best early tales is how he overcame his stammer (and how the saint’s blessing didn’t help). At times you think that perhaps Yousafzai could be accused of deliberately tackling the stereotype of the Muslim male, except that it sounds so real. He genuinely believes in ideals of freedom and equality. There isn’t a contrived atmosphere at all as he discusses these issues as well as the importance of respect for our parents and our past. 

Parents’ influence on their children is tackled again when he examines the importance of his mother’s love in his life and the way she encouraged education as a way out of poverty. When she died when Yousafzai was 16, the quick turnaround for a replacement wife for his father is described as a necessity; a wife was needed to look after the husband and children, to run the household because the men could not wash, cook or clean. This is explained in a matter of fact way but with an awareness that the Western readership will find it strange and perhaps misogynistic, and yet again he opens a reader’s eyes to this world.  

Yousafzai’s loves are family and freedom. The way he describes the change wrought in his life and that of his whole family when he applied the basic principle of gender equality to it is extraordinary, but he is always humble about his quite remarkable achievements.  Yousafzai is sensitive to inequality and clearly against patriarchy; the adherence to rigid social norms is written as a kind of slavery to him. As you can imagine, his description of Malala’s attack and recovery is especially affecting. 

The perspective of this man is insightful and valuable in a world so divided by ignorant, bite-sized tweets. Well worth reading.

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