Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani education activist who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban in 2012, yesterday spoke to Hachette UK staff at a showcase in London about her new book and her advocacy for girls and women's rights.
Featuring as part of a line-up of authors including Bryony Gordon, Deborah Frances-White and Fearne Cotton, she received a standing ovation from Hachette UK staff at the Sadler's Wells venue, with the publisher pledging to donate £10,000 to her non-profit education charity the Malala Fund.
At the event, intended to introduce and celebrate Hachette’s upcoming author talent for 2018, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Yousafzai took the stage to talk about the “amazing, incredible” girls she had met during her visits to refugee camps and whose stories will feature in her upcoming book, We Are Displaced, revealed yesterday (12th March) and publishing this September.
“My goal is to listen to their stories but also to raise their voices on a global platform,” said Yousafzai. “Investing in girls’ education is so important if you want to change the world. If you want to make the world a better place, a healthier place, a wealthier place, you have to invest in this.”
The subject of her new book is "the humanity behind the statistics" of the refugee crisis and she empathised with the plight of those she had met, recalling her own displacement, such as her deliberation over whether to take her school bag, how many clothes, how many shoes, and her younger brother’s disappointment when he was told he couldn’t take his pet chick along on the hard journey ahead.
“We often forget that people become refugees when they have no other option. This is never your first choice. And when you become a refugee you leave everything behind,” she said.
Of settling into student life at Oxford University, Yousafzai said she had been “initially nervous” but now felt comfortable as she talked about trying her best to get up in time for lectures and make her way through the course’s impossible reading lists.
Dismissing any current ambition to lead her country in the future, she again emphasised her commitment to girls’ education, prompting a standing ovation: “There are other ways you can bring the change you want to see ... I’m fortunate I don’t remember the incident (when she was shot); when people talk about ‘Malala, shot by the Taliban’ I don’t think that’s me, because I just don’t recall anything, which I think is good. For me, who am I? I’m someone who was always passionate about girls’ education and believing in women’s empowerment and equality and I still am. And something I’m doing right now is to make sure we give safe and quality education to all girls and allow them to decide and choose their own future.”
Hachette's showcase, compèred by radio presenter, journalist and podcaster Emily Dean, saw authors discuss topics ranging from migration, race and feminism, to mental health, ninja cats and saddleback piglets.
Dermot O’Leary and Fearne Cotton interviewed one another about their respective book projects. O'Leary revealed his next children's book will bring Downing Street's chief mouser Larry into the plot and Cotton, one of the UK's top wellness writers after Happy and Calm (Seven Dials), spoke frankly about dealing with "the D word - depression, not Dermot" and how she was able to achieve more balance in her life. “To know you’re not alone is probably the biggest game changer that’s available really,” she said.
Telegraph journalist Bryony Gordon continued the discussion describing how when Mad Girl came out out she became "an accidental mental health campaigner". She will set out to continue this work in her new book Eat Drink Run, out with Headline in May, of which she said: “I wanted to prove anything’s possible when you put your mind to it - and you don’t have to be an athlete to run a marathon (although it certainly helps!).”
Further speakers included Children’s Laureate Lauren Child, who spoke about some of her biggest childhood worries, from bad haircuts to peas and sharks, and their role in her books, Helen Browning, author of Pig: Tales from an organic farm, and Deborah Frances-White, host of the hit podcast Guilty Feminist, who engaged with the crowd on the topic of finding her tribe "of people who don’t know if they’re doing feminism right".
Extracts from key titles for Hachette this year were read on stage by voice artists Penelope Rawlins and Peter Kenny. Rawlins read an extract from The Lido (Orion), costuming for which on stage included wet suits, while dry ice was employed to eerie effect for Kenny's reading of Will Mabbitt's Embassy of the Dead (Orion). There were readings also for Force of Nature by Jane Harper (Little, Brown) and Suicide Club by Rachel Heng (Sceptre).
The day was rounded off by an 'in conversation' with crime writers Clare Mackintosh And J P Delaney on the enduring appeal of the psychological thriller and a rousing call for action from Akala, author of forthcoming political memoir Natives, for publishers "to take on and adopt some of the ways the music industry has infused itself with popular culture".
Addressing all 1,100 colleagues for the first time, David Shelley, Hachette UK chief executive, said: “It’s great to have this opportunity to not only showcase the amazing publishing from different divisions, but also to come together to celebrate our common purpose as Hachette UK.”