WSU selects “I Am Malala” as the 2016-17 Common Reading book in Pullman

PULLMAN, Wash.—Washington State University has named the best-selling “I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban” as the 2016-17 common reading for first-year and other students in Pullman, Interim Co-Provost Erica Austin has announced.

Austin chose “I Am Malala” from three books 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.

“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 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 university community that is inclusive, respectful, and equitable, she said. She noted the author’s summary of education’s power: “One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.”

Aligns with WSU emphases

“‘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. I believe this will deepen their identification with her story and its ability to empower them as new university students,” said Austin.

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

She also noted that wide-ranging academic disciplines can connect with the book, “and it can connect with all of WSU’s research grand challenges.” []

The book’s setting is in the Middle East, and that aspect could raise timely issues likely to be in the news during this presidential election year.

Social justice and leadership theme

“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.

“We have seen that students, faculty, staff, and units across the university resonate with that theme as they use the current book, ‘Just Mercy.’ Committee members are confident that ‘I Am Malala’ will prove to be equally adaptable and applicable to a wealth of lively classroom discussions and events in the coming academic year.”

Poch commended committee members for their work to evaluate the 27 books nominated in fall, and then narrow the number to recommend for consideration. 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 a tenth anniversary year

As she has done for the previous nine common reading books in as many years, program co-director Karen Weathermon will develop a year-long set of faculty and guest-expert lectures and special programming aligned with the book. This work also allows coordination with units across campus that offer affiliated events.

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

“Also, as 2016-17 marks the tenth anniversary of the Common Reading Program in Pullman, I am confident that there will be some special events throughout the year.”

Follow the plans on the program website at Its online calendar also lists many 2016 spring events tied to “Just Mercy.” Its author, Bryan Stevenson, visited Pullman in December 2015 to deliver an address and meet students.



MEDIA: Susan Poch, Co-Director of the WSU Common Reading Program, 509-335-6037,

Karen Weathermon, Co-Director of the WSU Common Reading Program, 509-335-5488,