My Journey with Artjamila, Part 1 is an intriguing scrapbook that draws us into the world of the author and her daughter, Jamila, who has autism. A retired architect and professor who left her career to homeschool Jamila when she was a teenager and to manage the girl’s budding art career, Noorhashimah Noordin created the tribute with her older daughter Jemima Shaiful.
Born in Malaysia and diagnosed with autism at age 4, Jamila had trouble communicating verbally and began drawing faces to express her emotions. She is now recognized nationally for her artwork and has received significant media coverage.
My Journey documents 15 years of Jamila’s life through hundreds of photos showing her in various situations, from sitting for a lesson to baking cupcakes. Readers also get a glimpse of Noordin’s teaching tools, including schematics showing curricula structure and schedules, and items such as an interactive white board with miniature clocks used by Jamila to help her learn about time. Throughout, Noordin explores how she found different educational options for Jamila, noting that “[m]y curriculum was designed with ‘art as a therapy’ at its core.” The book also includes testimonials from collectors of Jamila’s work, art curators and professional artists.
Unfortunately, the photography is amateur and the pictures and art are often tiny. Noordin’s written remembrances are informative, though unremarkable, and she repeats images and written descriptions more than once. These all lend an unpolished feel to the book.
Still, it’s Jamila’s stunningly detailed images, including her whimsical, brightly colored teapots, mermaids, and “three ladies” representing herself, her mother and her sister with long, flowing manes, that will most interest readers, who will feel they know Jamila and her mother intimately by book’s end.
In My Journey, a picture really is worth a thousand words, especially when drawn by a child with such extraordinary gifts. This is an interesting offering for any parent of a child with autism, especially one with artistic talent.
Also available in hardcover.