Prologue–Part One

An ordinary Pakistani girl is shot by the Taliban while fighting for her right to an education. In this memoir, Malala Yousafzai, the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, tells her story.

Start learning with an activity...

  • Practice

    Answer a few questions on each word. Get one wrong? We'll ask some follow-up questions. Use it to prep for your next quiz!
  • Spelling Bee

    Test your spelling acumen. See the definition, listen to the word, then try to spell it correctly. Beat your last streak, or best your overall time. Spellers of the world, untie!
  • Vocabulary Jam

    Compete head-to-head in real-time to see which team can answer the most questions correctly. Start a Jam and invite your friends and classmates to join!

Explore the Words

definitions & notes only words
  1. opportunity
    a possibility from a favorable combination of circumstances
    He was asking how things were at the Khushal School for Girls, which he founded and I attended, but I always took the opportunity to answer the question literally.
  2. cheeky
    offensively bold
    My youngest brother, Atal, was in an especially cheeky mood that morning.
  3. banter
    light teasing repartee
    All this banter nearly made me late, and I raced out the door, my half-eaten breakfast still on the table.
  4. chaos
    a state of extreme confusion and disorder
    The chaos of Mingora city surrounded us with its honking horns and factory noises while we worked silently, bent over our papers in hushed concentration.
    As the structure of the example sentence suggests, "chaos" and "hushed concentration" are opposite states. But they are also both used here to emphasize the freedoms of the city, where cars and factories can make lots of noise, while girls are allowed to test their knowledge in school. This scene sets up a contrast with the shooting.
  5. fickle
    marked by erratic changeableness in affections
    I think Bella from Twilight is too fickle, and I don’t understand why she would choose that boring Edward.
    Here are other examples of Malala's opinions: "I like cupcakes but not candy. And I don’t think dark chocolate should be called chocolate at all. I hate eggplant and green peppers, but I love pizza." These statements show that she knows her heart and mind, unlike the fictional Bella, and she would not waste her freedom with fickleness.
  6. lush
    produced or growing in extreme abundance
    Swat was known for its beauty, and tourists came from all over to see its tall mountains, lush green hills, and crystal-clear rivers.
  7. inspire
    fill with revolutionary ideas
    I’m named for the great young Pashtun heroine Malalai, who inspired her countrymen with her courage.
  8. oblige
    provide a service or favor for someone
    So I guess you could say that when Khushal fights with me, I oblige him.
  9. inconvenient
    not suited to your comfort, purpose or needs
    They are quite inconvenient sometimes, I told God.
  10. console
    give moral or emotional strength to
    Instead, he consoled me by telling me about the mistakes great heroes had made when they were children.
  11. pacifist
    someone opposed to violence as a means of settling disputes
    Heroes like Mahatma Gandhi, the great pacifist, and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.
    Malala's father is gentle and educated, so his choice of a pacifist as a hero is not surprising. What makes him different from many Pakistani fathers is his recognition that all heroes started out as children who made mistakes, so all children, including daughters, can grow up to be heroes who make a difference.
  12. partake
    have, give, or receive a share of
    I vowed then that I would never partake in badal.
    Badal is part of the Pashtunwali code; it is "a tradition of revenge—where one insult must be answered by another, one death by another, and on and on it goes." Vowing never to partake in this tradition, just as she vowed never to cover her face with a veil, shows Malala's pacifistic will, which developed from the freedoms she grew up with and which was strengthened by her encounters with the Taliban.
  13. hospitality
    kindness in welcoming guests or strangers
    That’s because one of the most important parts of the Pashtunwali code is hospitality. As a Pashtun, you always open your door to a visitor.
  14. veranda
    a porch along the outside of a building
    My mother and the women would gather on our veranda at the back of the house and cook and laugh and talk about new clothes, jewelry, and other ladies in the neighborhood
  15. uproarious
    marked by boisterous merriment or convulsive laughter
    Tinkling laughter sometimes. Raucous, uproarious laughter sometimes.
    "Raucous" means "disturbing the public peace; loud and rough." It also means "unpleasantly loud and harsh" but this second definition doesn't fit, because Malala enjoys hearing the soft, tinkling laughter as well as the rough and noisy kind. Both levels of laughter from women who can be publicly seen and heard are signs of their freedom.
  16. stunning
    strikingly beautiful or attractive
    But most stunning of all: The women’s headscarves and veils were gone. Their long dark hair and pretty faces—made up with lipstick and henna—were lovely to see.
    "Stunning" also means "causing great astonishment or shock." Both definitions fit. The women look stunning without their headscarves and veils, but Malala is stunned because she is used to seeing them covered.
  17. radiant
    emanating or as if emanating light
    But to see these women chatting casually—their faces radiant with freedom—was to see a whole new world.
  18. bold
    fearless and daring
    Our relatives thought I was very bold. (Some said rude.)
    Compare with the definition and example sentence for "cheeky." The cheekiness that Atal showed had less to do with being bold and more with being rude. But Malala was accused by some relatives of being cheeky when she boldly decided that living under wraps is unfair, so she will never cover her cheeks with a veil.
  19. unpredictable
    unknown in advance
    It was an exciting game, full of unpredictable escapes and plunges.
  20. melancholy
    characterized by or causing or expressing sadness
    It was beautiful, and also a bit melancholy for me to see the pretty kites sputter to the ground.
  21. launch
    propel for the first time, on a maiden voyage
    As I watched my brothers run up to the roof to launch their kites, I wondered how free I could ever really be.
  22. destined
    headed or intending to head in a certain direction
    “Look at this girl,” he’d say. “She is destined for the skies!”
    "Destined" also means "governed by fate." Although Malala and her family believe that God has a role in their lives, they also believe that each person has to work hard to be successful. This can be seen in the father's encouragement: "Carry on with your dreams" because “I will protect your freedom, Malala."
  23. sophisticated
    having worldly knowledge and refinement
    Even when I was only seven or eight, I was considered a sophisticated city girl, and sometimes my cousins teased me because I didn’t like to go barefoot and I wore clothes bought at the bazaar, not homemade like theirs.
  24. illiterate
    not able to read or write
    It is not at all uncommon for women in my country to be illiterate, but to see my mother, a proud and intelligent woman, struggle to read the prices in the bazaar was an unspoken sadness for both of us, I think.
  25. severe
    very bad in degree or extent
    Schools for girls had been burned to the ground, and all women were forced to wear a severe form of burqa, a head-to-toe veil that had only a tiny fabric grille for their eyes.
    "Severe" also means "austerely simple" and this could describe the lack of colors and designs in the loose outer garment. But the tone of the example sentence, with its focus on covering everything and its connection to burned schools, suggests the chosen definition. To Malala, a severe form of burqa is a severe loss of freedom, and that is very bad.
  26. ban
    prohibit especially by law or social pressure
    Women were banned from laughing out loud or wearing nail polish, and they were beaten or jailed for walking without a male family member.
  27. obsessed
    having excessive or compulsive concern with something
    That’s when I became obsessed with owning a magic pencil.
  28. blasphemy
    the act of depriving something of its sacred character
    “I am representing good Muslims,” the mufti said. “And we all think your girls’ high school is a blasphemy.
  29. compromise
    an accommodation in which both sides make concessions
    So my father came up with a compromise: The older girls would enter through a different gate.
  30. determined
    characterized by great firmness of purpose
    Her name was Malka-e-Noor, and she was bright and determined, but I did not think she was nearly as clever as me.
Created on July 23, 2015 (updated July 17, 2018)

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, sheffieldwind.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.