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WSU selects ‘I Am Malala’ for 2016-17 common reading

By Beverly Makhani, Office of Undergraduate Education

Common-reading-logoPULLMAN, Wash. – The best-selling “I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban” will be the 2016-17 common reading for first-year and other students at Washington State University Pullman.

Malala-cover-webInterim Co-Provost Erica Austin chose the book from three recommended by the selection committee of the common reading program, part of WSU undergraduate education.

The 2013 book is a memoir written by the world’s youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai, with Christina Lamb, a British journalist. It details the life of the Yousafzai family in northern Pakistan, their passion for education, Malala’s recovery from the assassination attempt when she was 15 and her emergence in the three years since as an international heroine.

Now living in Birmingham, England, she has addressed the United Nations and won countless awards as a persevering advocate for education and freedom.

Aligns with WSU emphases

“I chose ‘I Am Malala’ for a great many reasons,” said Austin. Chief among them is that “the book dovetails closely with our university’s mission to provide broad access to education – including to those from diverse domestic and international backgrounds as well as those who are place bound.”

The book also reinforces WSU’s commitment to building a community that is inclusive, respectful and equitable, she said, noting the author’s summary of education’s power: “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”

“‘I Am Malala’ is an incredibly dramatic first-person account by an individual who is similar in age to many of our entering students who will encounter topics from this book in their classes and activities,” Austin said. “I believe this will deepen their identification with her story and its ability to empower them as new university students.”

The book provides “an interesting context for discussing academic freedom and freedom of speech,” she said, “which are topics of interest and concern for our university community as well as our nation and world.”

Wide-ranging academic disciplines can connect with the book, she said, “and it can connect with all of WSU’s research grand challenges.”

One of 27 books nominated

“We believe Dr. Austin’s selection features extraordinary topics that tie clearly to the common reading’s two-year theme of social justice and leadership,” said Susan Poch, common reading co-director and chair of the selection committee.

Twenty-seven books were nominated in the fall. The two other books presented to Austin were “My Beloved World,” by Sonia Sotomayor, U.S. Supreme Court associate justice, and “Integration Nation: Immigrants, Refugees and America at Its Best,” by author and journalist Susan E. Eaton.

The latter was selected from the same list of nominations to be the common reading book used at WSU Vancouver in 2016-17.

Looking ahead to 10th anniversary year

Common reading co-director Karen Weathermon will develop a year of faculty and guest-expert lectures and special programs aligned with the book.

“There is a wealth of information available about Malala, her life, her work and international responses to her initiatives,” Weathermon said. “So the opportunities to build a diverse and meaningful set of academic experiences for students will be quite rewarding.

“Also, as 2016-17 marks the 10th anniversary of the common reading program in Pullman, I am confident that there will be some special events throughout the year.”

Learn more at


Susan Poch, WSU common reading, 509-335-6037,
Karen Weathermon, WSU common reading, 509-335-5488,



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