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Alice Munro and Malala Yousafzai – the power of stories and learning

Credit: Public Domain Photos / Flickr

Credit: Public Domain Photos / Flickr

 

Two women are making the headlines today. And they have more in common than you think. Both deserve the recognition they’re given, and both make the news in a way which makes me really happy. Here’s why Alice Munro and Malala Yousafzai matter to me.

1. They stand for things I believe in

Alice Munro is the master of the short story. For over 50 years now, her readers have been turning into fans and observers, one story at a time. This kind of writing is something I enjoy myself – and it’s great to see it being honoured by the Nobel committee. 

Malala’s quest is for education, and for equal access to it. This is what got her in trouble – and this is what she continued to fight for. The only weapon worth possessing is the one between your ears: Malala knows this and wants everybody to experience this equally.

2. They perfected the long run and they owned the decisive moment

This year’s Nobel prize in literature went to a person with over 40 years’ worth of writing experience. This is a track record which daunts and inspires me. I can only imagine how Alice Munro felt as she wrote another story, sketched out one more plot twist or one more idea. 40 years of such work requires commitment and the ultimate awareness of the long run – till one becomes the best in the world.

For Malala, the work may have just begun. In her case, the event which could have ended her project – the bus shooting – became a turning point. This was when everyone started paying attention. Now here’s something I hope I won’t have to imagine – but it does make me think: will I be able to spot the decisive moments, will I turn back or press on when my (infinitely smaller) adversities come my way? Will I ride my wave?

3. Their power is not like your power

It’s about watching, thinking, writing down a sentence or two, telling one story and then starting another. It’s about other people. And humility. And doing your own thing, no matter what.

It’s not about pressing big red buttons, writing a super-promoted 800-page bestseller for the film rights, yelling the loudest.

It’s probably about how you deal with obscurity and failure. Or cruelty and hostility, even.

This fascinates me more than I can say in a short post like this. This other kind of power: a more introverted, more observant kind.

4. How you can connect

There’s a great initiative happening tomorrow – campaigning for equal education access for girls. Go spread the word.

Alice Munro wrote a lot. Go read it in your local library.

 

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