I came across this book while looking for books to read for my bi monthly storytelling at a public library near my place. My name is Nadia and I have Autism is a bilingual book about a 8 year old girl Nadia Sander who has autism. It is written in both English and Malay. It shows that Nadia, despite her developmental difficulties, is just like any other child her age.
I chose this book to read to my group of children on 13th Nov. I was a little trepiditious as I was new to reading books about children with special needs and was a little concerned if I could explain autism to the children in a simple concise manner and wondered how the children will respond. When I seeked permission to read this book, I found out that apparently, I was the first storyteller to read a book about autism to the children in that library.
It was 7.30pm when all the children had settled down and I was overjoyed to see 12 eager children in front of me. I started off by announcing that I had a really special book to read and got the children's attention right away. But to hold their attention and eagerness for the next 30 minutes, I informed them that I will only read the special book at the end. I started reading the other 3 books first and when it came to this book, they were at the edge of their seats.
When I read the title, many questioning eyes looked at me. What is autism ? I explained very simply that some children view and react to the world differently from us and they get affected by loud noises and bright lights. That they are special, that's why they are called special needs children and we shouldn't look or treat them differently from us. Confused looks followed until I opened the pages and starting reading and showing the pictures of Nadia's experiences. In the end, when I posed the question in the book to the children - 'I am Nadia, will you be friend?' and probed 'Who will be Nadia's friend?' many hands went up which gave me an immense sense of fulfillment.
I hope I had introduced special needs children to these group of children so that they realise that special needs children should not be judged or stared at or worse bullied and that they are just like all of us.
Researching more on this book, I unearthed that Nadia is a 9-year-old autistic girl from Johor, Malaysia whom Huda, the author, met whilst conducting her research for her personal study. After meeting Nadia and her family members, Huda felt the urge to do something more. It didn’t take her long before she decided to retell the story of Nadia from a first person narrative. Huda says this :
“I hope this book will help to raise the awareness of autism in the community; it still carries social stigma and there is a lack of understanding about it. As mentioned by Dr Mariam Aljunied in the foreword of the book, ‘with better awareness, early intervention and good understanding as well as support from people around them, children with autism are being helped to reach their full potential’.”
I enjoyed reading this book to the children and it also helped me to understand autistic children a little better since I have expressed my interest to volunteer to help at a school for autistic children near my place. The pages are illustrated very colourfully to appeal to the children and its written very simply to allow many kids to understand autism better. Apparently, there is also another book in this series called My Name is Mikhail and I have Cerebral Palsy. Interesting. Perhaps one of my next books to read to the children?
Book rating : A
It is love which makes people resilient and have hope to move forward in the face of great difficulties' - Charmaine Leung
Charmaine Leung, the author of 17A Keong Saik Road, gave us a talk during our docent training at the National Museum of Singapore. As if that wasn't enough to pique my interest, we had a walkthrough of Keong Saik Road, a one way road located in Chinatown, Singapore soon after.
Keong Saik Road is now a mecca for local eats, regional French and Italian cuisine and the coolest bars in town. It is hard to imagine that Keong Saik Road was once a prominent red light district peppered with brothels back in the 1960s.
What prompted to read this book was the fact that Charmaine is the daughter of a brothel owner. Imagine growing up in an area teeming with prostitutes and hot blooded men? Imagine the kind of sights she would have seen? Imagine her unique experiences day after day?
Well I wasn't disappointed. Charmaine certainly gave us a very personal memoir of growing up in 17A Keong Saik Road. Her novel delves deep into the colourful history of the once notorious red light district and it brings to light the stories of the marginalised forgotten women of the past.
Charmaine tells the intimate story of her mother's tough journey from a young girl put up for sale in Malaysia, being sent to serve the needs of the business entertainment house in Singapore and finally becoming the madame of a brothel. Charmaine also gives us an insight into her personal struggles with shame and identity growing up the red light district and how she came to terms with it in the end.
This is Charmaine's first novel and she took 3 years to write this book. She says ' It brings forth the message of the universality of love. Regardless of whether it is betwen mother and child, friends with similar fates or just among strangers who have come together because of similar circumstances, when and where there is love, people have the capacity to expand themselves and give their very best despite any hardship. It is love which makes people resilient and have hope to move forward in the face of great difficulties.' Well said Charmaine.
I enjoyed reading this book though I took some time. There were some touching parts regarding her father, her relationship with her mom and lots of self reflection. Her written words were like pearls of wisdom which resonated with me.
'The essence was not how much fuller life could be, but in how I embraced the life that I already had.'
Charmaine, just like I , was hit hard by the passing of our beloved founding father Mr Lee Kuan Yew in 2015. He firmly believed in a good education which would elevate the nation which is also a core principle I believe in. Charmaine was a direct beneficiary of his vision.
Being an Indian, I was also exposed to many Chinese traditions followed by Charmaine's family in the memoir. It is a beautiful dedication to the past, memory and to the people who have gone before us. Comprising 266 pages covered in 18 chapters, I would give this book a thumbs up. It is actally a great book for Book Club discussion.
Overall rating : B+