Hello all and welcome to our new guest blog series ‘Reading Others’ where we have a nose around other people’s reading habits 🙂 Kick starting the series is Rowena, the inspirational blogger behind https://lesreveriesderowena.wordpress.com/ and all round book aficionado. So sit back and enjoy as we learn a little bit more about her! 🙂
Before we begin, tell us a little bit about yourself
I’m African-born, UK- and Africa-raised, now calling Vancouver, British Columbia home. I’m currently a Second-Year graduate student. I’ve always been a curious soul and a reader and I’m constantly trying to broaden my reading horizons. I blog on topics that I’m passionate about, such as literacy, the arts, travel, race and feminism at: https://lesreveriesderowena.wordpress.com/
As this is on thepocobookreader.com, we must ask, do you read much Post-colonial Literature? If yes what/ who are some of your favourite books and authors within the genre?
I do, yes. What appeals to me most is the fact that I grew up solely on European writers and although I loved their stories, there was no way I was really going to relate to them. Their experiences weren’t my experiences, their language (meaning the way they expressed themselves) wasn’t my language. I started reading postcolonial literature from India because it was easier to find. I binged on Anita Rau Badhami and Rohinton Mistry and I felt I could relate more to these authors than I could to Hardy et al. Despite not being from India, I could see how the African culture I spent some time in was similar in ways and I felt more comfortable in this literature. I find it important to read this sort of literature, written by people from those countries themselves for several reasons, but one of the main reasons is the issue of voice, the fact that people from these lands do have a voice, yet we rarely hear them amid the voices of others, so it’s easy to assume they don’t exist, but they do and they are warm, vibrant and powerful voices. I want to read about the culture and the traditions of these nations by the people who know the culture because I’m sure many of us have had enough of our culture being misrepresented. I’m reminded of Suzanne Cesaire who was frustrated by how outsiders wrote about her country and culture. She said:
“Swoonings, blues, golds, pinks. How nice! How overdone! Literature? Yes. Literature from the hammock, made of sugar and vanilla. Tourist literature…Come on now! Real poetry is somewhere else. Far from shyness, laments, soft breezes, parrotings. We decree the death of frou frou literature. And to hell with hibiscus, the scent of jasmine, and bougainvillea.”
There are so many postcolonialist writers I admire. Some of my favourites are Chinua Achebe, Edwidge Danticat, Yvonne Vera, Wole Soyinka, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Frantz Fanon, Aime Cesaire, Rohinton Mistry, Salman Rushdie, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
What are your usual reading habits? Are you a monogamous, one book at a time kind of person or do you read several books at once?
I often read a few books at a time. In most instances I’ll be reading a non-fiction, fiction, and a book of poetry concurrently.
What is your favourite book, or a book that you feel has really impacted your outlook on things? Has a book ever changed your life?
“Quiet” by Susan Cain, though not my favourite book by a stretch definitely changed the way I see myself. I come from an extroverted culture and I’m not an extrovert. It sounds funny to say now but I tried to be an extrovert and it always felt uncomfortable. Reading “Quiet” helped me see what introvertism actually means and how beneficial it is to accept your personality type. Learning more about introvertism made my life make sense and I was able to embrace that part of myself, and was suddenly equipped better to explain certain behavioural traits to the extroverts in my life.
What were your favourite books as a child?
As I list my favourite childhood books, I definitely see a theme. Some of my favourite books were The Hobbit, The Little Prince, The Secret Garden, The Phoenix and the Carpet, Ramona Quimby books, The Naughtiest Witch books, The Moomintroll Series, Narnia, and pretty much every book I read by Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. In those books I see themes of fantasy, journeys and escapism and also incidents of being the outsider, which makes sense to me as my family were the only black family in the neighbourhood and although I was quite happy in the UK I knew it wasn’t home. This realization was probably what made me search for other worlds, other realities and experiences through literature, and those books helped me imagine new worlds.
Probably“The Little Prince.” I’ve been reading it since I was 9 or 10 and it’s an old friend of mine. I feel as though I’ve grown with that book, and I always find new insights.
What is your guilty/embarrassing read? (eg any old copies of Mills and Boon that you just can’t let go of or Sweet Valley High?!)
I’m not really one for romance novels but I must admit, I love Julia Quinn! She’s my guilty pleasure.
Can you tell us something about yourself that others might not know?
I’m a “mixologist”, also called a “kitchen chemist”! I have a ton of dried flowers, herbs, body butters and oils at home and I make my own body cream, shampoos, hair moisturizers etc. It’s a great, relaxing hobby that I’ve been doing for almost a decade now.
Can you name a book that you wish everyone would read?
“A Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela. This is a man who meant so much to me growing up, a man I inwardly thanked when my family and I visited South Africa for the first time right after apartheid, and the significance of that trip hit me. I found this book such an honest portrayal of a great man. We always want to place our heroes on pedestals but I think we can read this and see Mandela was very human and he acknowledged his humanness. He was also very humble and he will always be an inspiration to me. Reading his experiences with racism should remind us how insidious racism is yet give us hope that despite being raised in a racist environment, Mandela was still able to go to school, become a lawyer , and change the world!
How often do you read, and where is your favourite place to read?
What did you guys think? Did you enjoy that as much as me and do you share any of Rowena’s reading habits?
If you would like to take part in this blog series, get in touch and we’ll be happy to have you. 🙂