From Right to Left – Aren’t I Canadian too?

From Right to Left - Aren't I Canadian too?

In light of this recent article, Is Kingston (ON, Canada) racist? I will share a personal experience of trying to get my book “into” the Kingston Public Library.

Kingston Ontario Canada is like a “sacred” city for me because this is my roots in this country. A place where my father first came as a student to do his Masters in 1965 from #Pakistan.

So it’s no small wonder that I had great intentions when I passed through Kingston on my book tour for Khadijah goes to School back in the summer of 2011. It was August, and the book had just been out for 2 months. I was en-route to a culture show in Montreal.

I had 3 goals in mind with limited time. Get to the #mosque for #Juma, visit Queens University to see my fathers school for the very first time and go the the central library and leave a copy of my book!

I met one of the librarians and happily handed her a copy of Khadijah goes to School. Looking back, no one gives anything for free as I have painfully learned over time, but I did and have done so because it was a gesture of sharing.

After returning from #Montreal, I waited for a few days hoping to get that call. You got to understand, writing a book for the very first time is exciting. If anyone even blinks as much towards your book, you’re jumping for joy! Unfortunately though, I didn’t hear back from the library. I couldn’t take it anymore and finally called a week later and asked that very same librarian (yes! I found her) if they had accepted Khadijah goes to School. I was told “they” had rejected it from their collection. When I asked why? She said it was too hard to read. Too hard to read? I grasped at anything…Why I asked? Well the main reason is because it opens from the RIGHT she said and the people and children aren’t used to opening a book from the right and it would “confuse” them.

That was a hit. If they only knew what I went through to produce this work…a part of my soul…and here I was, that very city where my father had earned his masters in #Mathematics some 46 years earlier said NO. Could the book have been that bad that it had no place on a shelf that took just 2 cm’s of width?? Granted I’m a first time “#Canadian” author and the book is unconventional, couldn’t they just have put it in, and that even me donating it for free just to give me some encouragement?? Everyone needs a chance! I mean it was already in another library system! Besides, a book is never ending. Even though I was fresh and pretty unaware of publishing the first time round, who’s to say I couldn’t improve it?…Besides, the #ideas I think have some solid merit. But the reviews I got from Media as the book was further introduced was a powerful experience for me:

I wrote Khadijah goes to School with the hopes of people connecting to it as a #creative experience to explore #Thought and #Culture…After all, it’s sub-title says it best – “A story about You…” It’s not just for me…but for you!

The real deal breaker was when she referred to Khadijah as “it” during our conversation. As you all know (hah!) Khadijah is a female #Arabic name. But she’s apparently “unidentifiable” in some parts of #Kingston. And despite what Khadijah has to offer this world, as the old saying goes, “Don’t judge a #BOOK by it’s cover” did not hold true.

I know, a lot of it is my fault. I admit it. I/We (#Muslims, #Pakistanis, #Arabs) haven’t introduced myself/ourselves to #mainstream #Canadian culture like we should…we’re unknown…and Invisible. I know. But that’s one reason why I wrote the book. A little me to a little you. So we can come to know one another…but only if…just only if…I was allowed in. Over this time now trying to connect with people, I have realized that our #decisionMakers need to be as #diverse as our population…but ofcourse, that isn’t totally how it goes. As you climb that societal ladder, you tend to see yourself as a vigilante, the lone wolf, the only one as a person of colour or of different religion. Trust me, it’s not easy being alone, being non-white and/or “different”, with an #Aladdin type feel to everything you’re trying to do, even when people in your own don’t support you, and you’re out to help re-shape some “anti-Khadijah” thinking. (Actually I’m trying to re-shape some educational thinking too!) What can I say…it just takes…your soul away…

And oh yeah, the way the book opens you ask? Why that is the tradition of #Christianity isn’t it? Was #Jesus not from #Palestine? He was #Semitic and spoke #Aramaic, a language that #READS from the RIGHT, just like #Hebrew AND #Arabic.

So in one sweep, even 3 great traditions, were quieted from ever seeing the light of “conversation” of such related sorts. Poor soul probably didn’t realize this very well could have been related to her own background…given that she was likely related to the Christian faith in some way. (Maybe I’m assuming too much but her name gave it away!)

But hey, #Manga novels can’t be the only cool book in #Canada that reads from the right!! Won’t the REAL librarian please stand up and give Khadijah goes to School a chance!


Related: Khadijah goes to School – The REAL Story…

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