As Sally Ride and Marian Wright Edelman both powerfully said, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” When Sally Ride said that, she meant that it was hard to dream of being an astronaut, like she was, or a doctor or an athlete or anything at all if you didn’t see someone like you who already had lived that dream. She especially was talking about seeing women in jobs that historically were held by men.
I wrote the first She Persisted
and the books that came after it because I wanted young girls—and children of all genders—to see women who worked hard to live their dreams. And I wanted all of us to see examples of persistence in the face of different challenges to help inspire us in our own lives.
I’m so thrilled now to partner with a sisterhood of writers to bring longer, more in-depth versions of these stories of women’s persistence and achievement to readers. I hope you enjoy these chapter books as much as I do and find them inspiring and empowering.
And remember: If anyone ever tells you no, if anyone ever says your voice isn’t important or your dreams are too big, remember these women. They persisted and so should you.
Warmly,Chelsea ClintonTABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1: Curious from the Start
Chapter 2: Speaking Up
Chapter 3: A Perilous Moment
Chapter 4: Perseverance
Chapter 5: Recognition
Chapter 6: The Work Continues
How You Can Persist
Curious from the Start
On July 12, 1997, in the Pakistani city of Mingora, snug in the lush Swat Valley, a baby girl was born. Her father gazed down starry-eyed at his firstborn child and thought about the legendary Afghan poet Malalai of Maiwand, who was famous for her courage and convictions. He smiled and said he would name his daughter Malala.
Pakistan’s Swat Valley is famous for its snow-capped mountains, flower-filled meadows, and clear blue lakes. People travel from all over the world to vacation there. They hike the mountains, enjoy the local hospitality, and take part in the joyful summer festivals. Malala’s early years were peaceful and happy in this scenic wonderland. She played with her friends and she also spent time with her two younger brothers (sometimes she arm wrestled them!). But even as a small child, Malala’s favorite place to be was school. She felt at home there. Her father was a teacher and ran several schools for girls in their community. When she was very little, before she could even speak, she would wander into his classrooms while he was teaching. Sometimes she would even pretend to be
As Malala continued to grow, both her curiosity and love for learning grew as well. She spoke three different languages: Pashto, Urdu, and English. She was a hardworking student and loved going to school, learning new things, and being with her friends. She even loved the pens and notebooks with which she wrote down what she was learning. She often daydreamed about all the things she wanted to do when she grew up. She knew she wanted to help people, so she thought about becoming a doctor, and later, she thought she might want to become a politician. Malala greatly admired Benazir Bhutto, who had been Pakistan’s first female prime minister—the leader of Pakistan’s government. She thought that becoming a prime minster would be a job that could help her assist even more people than being a doctor would. Her father encouraged Malala to soar as high as her dreams could take her. Malala was grateful to her father for not “clipping her wings.”
Malala loved school and was sad when she learned that not all children were as lucky as she was to attend classes and learn. One day, when Malala was young, she went to drop off garbage at the local dump. She winced at the strong smell and tried her best not to get her clothing and shoes dirty. As she neared the garbage, she saw that there were children digging through the trash. Malala was surprised and confused. A little girl sorted some of the rubbish and placed it in piles. A few boys were fishing for metal scraps among the heap.
The kids looked like they were Malala’s age. She looked at the little girl, trying to remember her from any of her classes, but it didn’t seem like the girl went to her school. Why haven’t I seen her in my classes?
When she spoke to her father about the children she’d seen digging through the garbage, he explained to her that sadly not all children were able to attend school. The kids she saw digging through the trash were looking for things they might be able to sell for money. They would use the money to feed their families. Her father told her that this was the sad reality for millions of kids around the world, who have families so poor they need everyone in the household—even young kids—to work in order to survive.
Malala was very upset to learn about this. It was unfair that some kids were denied an opportunity to attend school and become whoever they wanted to be because of their life circumstances. All children, thought Malala, had the right to attend school.
On that day, as Malala thought about those children, she did not know that in just a short while, she herself would also be denied access to an education, the thing she cherished so very much. In fact, Malala could never have imagined just how dramatically everything in her life would soon change.
Copyright © 2022 by Aisha Saeed with introduction by Chelsea Clinton; illustrated by Alexandra Boiger and Gillian Flint. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.