By Chengnan Li //
In her book We Are Displaced, Malala Yousafzai shares the terrifying yet inspiring stories of female refugees from around the world. Yousafzai starts by telling her own story, describing how the Taliban forced her and her family to leave her home in Swat Valley to join the ranks of other internally displaced refugees in Pakistan. She recounts the agony she felt from leaving her friends, her childhood, and abandoning her education. She also vividly depicts the horrors she experienced after coming back to Swat Valley, including seeing the destruction of her school and being shot by a Taliban gunman, both experiences which inspired her to become a refugee activist.
The author only devotes a small portion of the book to her own story, and the remainder is a collection of nine refugee stories ranging from Myanmar to Syria to Colombia. In addition to the evils of terrorism and organized violence, the girls are also “displaced” purely by nature of being female. Readers of this book will learn of girls who are prevented from going to school, girls who burn themselves alive in fear of their fathers’ punishment, and girls who have no other choice in life but to choose the path of marriage. Despite all the oppression and disruption, each girl persists to find her own sense of home and her own purpose in life.
Each of the accounts shares the common experiences of racism and discrimination, which help make the book relatable and relevant to a wide range of readers. Yet, each narrative is also unique in its own way through its emotionally specific details and its intimate storytelling. As a result, the author is able to give the refugees a voice and transform them from nameless, faceless statistics to real, fleshed-out human identities who are more than just their displaced status.