Asim Hussain, who goes by his artist name @studentAsim, has a message that he believes in so strongly, he wrote a book about it – and then published it himself. Although it resembles a children’s book, with illustrations by his own kids, he intends for people of all ages to draw meaning from his story.
On the surface, Khadijah Goes to School: A Story about You is about a young girl who is nervous about starting at a new school, and meeting her new teacher and classmates. But at another level, the book is about the importance of reading and education, finding your true self and reaching your maximum potential.
It also champions diversity. On one two-page spread, Hussain (BSc 1999, HBSc 2005) has included the word “read,” and its equivalent in 220 languages, including sign language, braille and computer language. “The whole point is to instigate discussion about diversity and the concept of the self. What does it mean to be you?”
Unlike most English-language books, Khadijah Goes to School opens left to right, as books do in such languages as Arabic and Hebrew. Hussain says he hopes readers will recognize in this an alternate way of doing things.
The book contains a self-affirming message as well, delivered by Khadijah’s teacher, that everyone can make an important contribution to society. Although Hussain himself believes education is important, he has little time for university graduates who look down on those lacking formal education. He sees colleges and universities as offering “one way to be educated, but not the only way. Brilliance is not limited to one standard. A lot of kids wonder what education is for. Ultimately it’s about contributing to society and helping other people.”
A Pakistani-Canadian, Hussain grew up in Toronto and Mississauga, and studied computer science at U of T. After obtaining his degree, he worked for three years in the information technology industry, and then returned part-time for three more years in political science. He’s now an IT consultant, but says he’s always had a creative side that he’s recently exploring with writing and publishing. “When I become dedicated to something I really work for it.”