Posted by: Viola | October 11, 2014

Letter to Malala

Letter to Malala Yousafzai: A Prose Poem

by Viola Allo

Dear Malala: Long before you won the Nobel Peace Prize, I knew the prize belonged to you. I knew it was only a matter of time before this award came to you. I had no doubt in my mind. And I knew it would come quickly. In fact, as far as I was concerned, you had already gathered every great prize that exists in the world.

When I heard your story, I knew that you had earned what I think of as the most coveted prize ever. A prize that probably does not exist and has no name, but to me it does exist and it belongs to you. It’s the prize for courage. The prize for bravery. The prize for fearlessness. The prize for looking fear in the eye and not wavering in your stance. Not altering your gaze. Not shifting your focus but reaffirming it.

The man who shot you asked, “Who is Malala?” and before you could answer, he spotted you and shot you. And so you named your book “I AM MALALA.” You spoke up so that everyone would know the answer to that question. “Who is Malala?” your shooter asked. And as soon as you could respond, as soon as you recovered from your injuries and could speak, you called out, “I am Malala.” You did not cower. You did not hide. You had nothing to hide. And today you are more visible than ever.

The man who shot you got on your school van and hesitated. Perhaps his arm and hand shook. Perhaps his gaze and aim faltered. Perhaps the van swerved. You moved in your seat. Your friend who sat at your side leaned into you. The bullet intended to kill you merely struck bone and ricocheted. And perhaps in that moment, all the people around you became keenly aware that they were playing a historic role. The man with the gun doing his part to catapult you into even greater fame. Helpless in the face of a force beyond him, he did the unspeakable and gave you more power than you may have ever dreamed of having. The doctors and surgeons working to save your life stepped into gear and did their part. Your family and your international community of supporters did their part. Today, you are alive and well. And you are unstoppable.

In all of this, I look to you for courage. Yes, the change you inspire gives me hope. Yes, your power galvanizes my faith. But it is your fearlessness in the face of opposition and danger that touches me the most. You say that nothing frightens you, for you have looked death in the face and come back to tell of it. And I believe you. You have looked your would-be killer in the eye and come through that terror. You have survived a shot that left it’s mark on you. You have forgiven the people who tried to obliterate you. Hatred and bitterness have no hold on you. You are at peace and continue your work, as if everything is just business as usual. As if your work and courage are the most natural and ordinary things. And this is what moves me the most.

Your courage is ordinary to you. Your bravery is normal. It’s the way things are and ought to be. It’s the way you are. And this is what I want for me. I want to wake up each day and feel natural in my fearlessness. I want my courage to be my first action and my primal instinct. I want my bravery to be so natural to me that it need not be a thought. I want my actions to rest on my boldness, and I want my choices and options in life to stop being corroded by fear. I want to move and live and breathe and sleep and eat and read and write and learn without fear. I want a new kind of education. A new way of being in the world. I want to speak my mind and do my own work without fear.

I want to stand before my fears and say, “I am not going anywhere. This is me. I am Viola.” Yes, just like you have risen up to say, “I am Malala.” Just like you have stood up to say “I am Malala, and I am not afriad.” I, too, want to stand up and proclaim my fearlessness. I may never achieve total fearlessness in this lifetime, but I am inspired to keep trying at it–because of you. I want to be like you, Malala. You have given me a model of fearless womanhood. Thank you for being here. Thank you for being you.

Sincerely, Viola


By Viola Allo. All rights reserved. Please contact the author for permission to use or share this prose poem.



  1. […] last year about women, education, and terrorism. They were right up there in the news, as was Malala and her experience of terrorism in […]

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