I am Malala
Author: Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Assigned Reading Age: Young Adult
Subjects: Autobiography, Women’s rights
A Nobel peace prize winner and an activist for women’s rights, Malala Yousafzais early life experiences have been unlike most people. Through the autobiography titled, I Am Malala, the readers get a glimpse of a Pakistani born heroine. The book revisits the childhood memories of Malala and describes the close relations she has with not only her family and friends, but her hometown in Mingora, Pakistan. Throughout the tellings of her financial, social, and educational struggles in Mingora, Malala uses her many role models as guidance though overcoming her obstacles. As one of her main influences is her father, Malala soon enough adopts his eloquence in public speaking, interest in politics, and love for education. Although her futuristic thinking lead to her being shot by the Taliban, Malala’s resilient and steadfast character allowed her to keep on delivering her message.
The book, I Am Malala, covered some of the social changes that took place when the Taliban came into power in Mingora in the early 2000’s. Malala, and many girls alike in that time were stripped away of education, and other basic women’s rights due to the misinterpretations that the Taliban had created through the Quran. Their contorted Islamic teachings, motivated Malala to verbally oppose them, as she voiced her opinions in interviews and through writing. Malala gave the world a first-person point of view of someone who lived through the tough times. A refreshing perspective, as it was personal and moving.
Malala’s adolescent years, was spent fighting for what she believes in, and taking advantage of all of the assistance and supporters she could get to build up her platform. I Am Malala, gives the readers a moment to not only be in awe of the accomplishments as a teenager, but radiates hope and inspiration.
Love and Happiness: A collection of personal reflections and quotes
Author: Yasmin Mogahed
Publisher: FB Publishing
Assigned Reading Age: Ages 15 +
Subjects: Spirituality, Allah, Islam, Life
“In our own futile quest for human perfection, we miss the whole point: God’s perfection.”
In this beautiful compilation of quotes and short reflections, Yasmin Mogahed builds a bridge between her readers and the Almighty. In this journey of life, we all have our highs and our lows, we celebrate the highs and tend to hold on to the lows. Mogahed helps, her readers understand that all these emotions should be celebrated and appreciated by us. In fact, embrace them as the building stones in our climb towards, getting closer to the Almighty (swt).
Mogahed conveys the message: live your life in balance, don’t get caught up in any one emotion and let it control you and realize that at the end, this life is nothing but a temporary abode.
Through deeply reflective quotes and messages, the author gives a voice to emotions, which we all carry: joy/sorrow/ patience/ pain/ depression/ loneliness. The reader cannot help but laugh, sigh, celebrate and embrace life’s turbulence with the author. Each advice and quote is accompanied by a beautiful picture which add depth and beauty to the book.
A deeply moving, spiritual and self- reflective read, best read alone with a cup of chai.
Hope & Despair
Author: Monia Mazigh
Publisher: McClelland & Steward Ltd.
Assigned Reading Age: Ages 16 +
Subjects: Oppression, Justice, Terrorism, Advocacy
On September 26, 2002, Maher Arar was on an American Airlines flight bound for New York, returning home early from a family vacation for a work project. He was a Canadian citizen, a telecommunications engineer and an entrepreneur who had never been in trouble with the law. He was unlawfully detained in the US on suspicion of having terrorist links. He was subsequently sent to Syria where he was tortured and imprisoned for over one year.
Monia Mazigh writes about her journey as she struggles to fight against the governments and agencies with one goal only – to free her husband.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Mazigh is an educated woman who displays courage, perseverance and is clearly focused on her mission to advocate for the freedom for her husband. At the same time, she continues raising her young children and embracing their milestones and achievements. I, personally, loved how Mazigh never viewed herself as a victim of misfortune; she was constantly grateful to God for the help she received and was an active participant in the pursuit of justice.
The Language of Tears
Author: Bridget Blomfield
Publisher: White Cloud Press
Assigned Reading Age: Ages 16 +
Subjects: Shiism, Women, Cultures (Iran, Iraq, Pakistan/India)
The book is about an American Academic who chooses to complete her PhD thesis on Shia Women. She embeds herself into the lives of the Iranian, Iraqi and Pakistani communities in Southern California. In the process, she learns to appreciate the rituals and beliefs of Shia Women and the strength of their conviction.
The most striking feature of Blomfield’s writing is her sincerity. She narrates intimate details of her conversations with Shia Women, young and old alike. In doing so, she makes the reader feel that they can relate to the joys and challenges faced by these women. Her ability to empathise and appreciate the other is a needed antidote to the public perception today of Muslim Women and particularly of women in Iran or the Shia World.
The Hidden Life of Trees
What they feel, how they communicate – Discoveries from a secret world
Author: Peter Wohlleben
Publisher: Greystone Books
Subjects: Nature, Educational
A beautiful book about what really goes on in the life of tree. Written by a German forester who spent years working with trees, the book shows how close tree life is to human life. How tree ‘parents’ protect their young from growing too fast, support them as they grow, share nutrients with the needy trees and co-operate with one another to ward off danger.
The signs of Allah are everywhere. Almighty Allah says, ‘Soon We will soon show them Our signs in the Universe and in their own souls, until it will become quite clear to them that it is the truth’ (41:53). This book is an amazing revelation of just how many signs there are in the Universe and how oblivious we are of them.
Trees have a closely connected social life. Every tree is valuable to the community and all are connected through their root systems. They help each other but also struggle to survive themselves. Each want to create more space for itself and to optimize its performance. Trees pair up with fungi to form what the author calls a ‘wood wide web’. Trees communicate through scent. Danger is transmitted through the release of scent compounds so other trees are warned.
The book is full of insights about trees, in a way that we may never have thought about trees. It may seem to find too many similarities between trees and human beings, and uses words that seem strange to use for trees. But the author backs up his points with a lot of scientific research.
Although the book gives a lot of details about trees that only intense tree lovers would appreciate, overall it is an amazing read. Changes the way one thinks about the forest. There is much more going on in every created species than we ever imagined. Glory be to Allah, the Best of Creators.
Author: Mohamedou Ould Slahi
This is the first and only diary written by an imprisoned Guantánamo detainee. Mohamedou Slahi is a Mauritian who was imprisoned at the detainee camp for more than thirteen years. He was never charged with a crime. In 2010 a federal judge ordered his release but the US government fought the order.
Slahi taught himself English while in detention and hand wrote his own petition to the US government. He began a correspondence with lawyers that recorded the details of his life as a detainee. This became the ‘Guantánamo Diary’ published after his lawyers struggled for seven years to get the government to allow its publication. The book was published in 2015, heavily censured by the government with large blocks of text obscured. The book reveals the awful horrors of the camp, the harrowing incidents that he was subjected to, the amazing resilience of the author, and his grace and humor which saw him through it. It includes accounts of Slahi’s prayers and fasting while in detention, and the attempts to force him into stopping that. The book became a national bestseller. The author was released from Guantánamo in October 2016 and returned to his home country of Mauritania.
According to reporters who interviewed him, Slahi was subjected to brutal interrogations and torture. He maintained his sanity but confesses that he came close to breaking down completely. What is striking is his sense of humor, the bond that he made with some of his guards, and his ability to make the most of small things while in detention. Even more incredible is his efforts to empathize with those who tortured him and understand the reasons behind their subhuman behavior.
CBS’s 60 Minutes has aired an interview with him which is fascinating. Slahi talks about his interrogations, his hope to go back home, and his eventual release. A must watch.