An Apology to Nobel Peace Prize Recipient Malala Yousafzai


Bio: This poem was written by Nora Cooper. Check out her other work here. 

Dear Malala, if I may call you that,

I don’t really know where to start.

I feel as though “thank you” should be

Thrown in here somewhere

But it doesn’t seem

Big enough

Beginnings are always awkward aren’t they?


this is the beginning of an apology letter

Dear Malala,

If I may call you Malala

I’ve let you down

I think we all have

And I’m sorry

I’m sorry for skipping classes

I’m sorry for packing up before my
professor has finished speaking

I’m sorry for not doing the reading

I’m sorry for only ever meaning to
go to office hours

I’m sorry for being too hungover
to show up for the education
my parents are paying for

I’m sorry, Malala, if I may call you Malala,
for wasting my privilege.

I’m sorry that when I miss school

I get to call it laziness

And that when you miss school

You call it survival

I’m sorry that there are people

Who would rather see your family gathered

at your funeral

than your graduation

I’m sorry that at mine

I all but begged my parents to stop

Taking pictures

Because it wasn’t a big deal

I’m sorry because when I use my textbook


It’s as a stool

When you use your textbook improperly

It’s as a shield

I’m sorry there are men with guns

Who would see you dead

Before literate


Before educated


Before nobel laureate

I’m sorry Malala because I’m fucking up

I’m sorry too, to Rosalind Franklin who had the

Nobel Prize ripped out from under her

and to Rosalyn Yalow who when getting three A’s and an A minus

in her first ever physics classes her professor commented

how these grades displayed the inferiority of women in the laboratory

And Jane Austen, and Virginia Wolf,

And Charlotte Bronte who gave herself a man’s name

Because they would never read a woman’s writing

And I’m sorry to Marie Curie, Marie du France

Georgia O’Kefe and Frida Kahlo,

To my friend Caroline who told me

That she wanted to change majors from civil engineering

To applied mathematics so she could have time to

Explore other areas of study

But she worried people would comment

“we told you so” “we told you it would be too hard for you”

To my roommate Lindsay

who is one of 15 girls in a lecture of 100 engineering majors

to my sister, studying for the MCAT, worried

she won’t be able to take care of a family

I’m sorry for not starting my essays sooner

When yours would have been called criminal

I’m sorry for letting kids in my science classes tell me that

Girls just don’t have “mathematical minds”

For letting them tell me that my English class

Is a “break” from all the “real” classes I’m taking

I’m sorry Malala, if I may call you Malala

I’m sorry that they tried to kill you for what I sleep through

I’m sorry that they convinced so many young girls

that a bullet fits better than

Knowledge in a woman’s head

I’m sorry they convinced so many young boys

To hand a girl a death threat before a hand off the bus

I’m sorry for all the girls who walk 12 miles to school

Because of how desperately they want to learn

And I won’t even walk 12 minutes

I’m sorry because there are people who would

See me dead rather than at this school

And there are people who would kill me

To take my place

I’m sorry for Seneca falls

And women’s suffrage

I’m sorry for fucking up feminism

I’m sorry for applauding what you stand for

and realizing none of it

I’m sorry for forgetting my place

I’m sorry they only listened to you

When you were so determined to learn

That you refused to die

So you see, Malala, if I may call you that

I’m sorry

I’m going to do better by you

I promise

I’m going to do better

And I’m sorry for everyone I left out of this list

Whose education is a recent luxury

Because let’s face it

It’s a recent luxury for anyone but rich white Christian men to be handed a book

And it’s not their fault either

I’m not mad at you for having privilege

That, you’re right, you didn’t ask for,

None of asked for what we have

But I’m mad at us for wasting our privilege

I will no longer shirk opportunities to speak

Even if my voice shakes

Call me radical

Call me feminazi

Tell me to take a fucking midol

Make jokes from the back of the lecture hall

I will do the readings

I will take the best fucking notes you’ve ever seen

I will walk those 12 minutes to class

I will fuck up sometimes but dammit I will try

I swear I will try

I can’t hear your idiocy

Your bigotry

Over the roar

Of the waves of change

Whose environmental impact I will learn to calculate

And the buzz of my neurons firing

Whose pathways I will not forget

And the shuffling of pages of history textbooks

Whose pages I won’t let you be left out of

Dear Malala, if I may call you that,

I will hear you. I will pick up my books. I will pick up my pencils. I promise

You deserve better

We all do

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