Becoming an “adventurous reader”

Those of you who know me know that my reading behaviour is obscenely predictable.

Fayola… is a huge SFF nerd and YA fan with high standards. Sometimes, she is a cover snob, and if the blurb doesn’t pull her in right away- it’ll take a lot of pestering and recommendations for her to even consider adding the book of your choice to her ever-growing TBR list.

That used to be the case.

I have now been an active member of my local library for over a year! (Unbelievable! Great! Amazing! Beautiful!) I know this because the blog post I wrote about joining up “I only wanted to see the study zone” was posted exactly thirteen months ago.

And I’ve noticed a huge shift in both my behaviour as a book reader, and a book buyer.

A big part of that is due to having joined the library.

My local library quickly became my favourite place to pick up books. I’m always looking at the recently returned shelves to see what caught other people’s eyes and to see if anything there catches my eyes as well. The librarian recommendation displays are so nice.

Since joining I have saved so much money, books and clothes were my biggest expenses. As I’m trying to embrace minimalism in my life I’m buying less books- physically, and primarily use my Kindle. But when I want to hold a book, feel the pages beneath my finger tips and sometimes (if i’m extremely early and lucky) want to smell that “new book smell” I can find myself in the library doing exactly that.

Not only has my bank account been glad of this library membership, my bookshelves have too. I’ve never experimented with the literature I read as much as this in so long. When you’re about to buy an item like a book, you think you’re going to keep it for life, you want to revisit it and treasure it and display it so that everyone can see that you and it have a good connection. I’ve always been so scared to try out books that don’t catch me right away.

What if I hate them and am stuck with them forever (or long enough until someone’s birthday’s arrived and I might be able to gift it to them?)

It always limited me. Now, I don’t feel that limitation.

Yes, books have gotten prettier, reading on my kindle is sometimes cheaper than buying a hard/paperback, but I’m less scared to read something and not love it. Because, at the end of the day, if the plot is dragging, or I hate the characters, or I just can’t wrap my head around it.

At the end of the day… It’s not mine.

It’s a freeing feeling to not have to hold onto this book and admit that, “hey, this one didn’t bang- we’ll just be on the look out next time for something better” to myself. And I have been. I’ve been broadening my reach. I’m researching authors and series more and saving up for the books that I desperately wanted a physical copy of. All the while, enjoying the casual pick-and-choose moment in the library every three weeks or so.

Yes, I’m still into primarily SFF and YA, but I’m stepping into speculative fiction in ways that I haven’t before. (And shameless plug, documenting this journey on Instagram “bookstagram” @fayolazahra) I’m no longer boxed in by the genre that has held my interest for as long as I remember, and I’m becoming one of those “adventurous” readers.

Something, something, something- Support your local library!

ANOTHER VERY SHORT UPDATE!

So last year, I decided I was going to #TreatMySelf!

So I bought tickets to see Harry Potter an the Cursed Child. The play (parts 1 AND 2). Set in the future!

With BLACK HERMIONE!!!! which was a main selling feature for me, tbh. (Because sometimes JKR’s diversity stunt queen antics can come off mad dumb)

On my birthday!

Which it is! Which is NOW!

And I have friend’s down to visit with me. Friends I haven’t seen since we left MMUC because of distances and clashing schedules. Friends I am very happy to see and was very happy to have with to discuss theories with.

Not going to talk about it other than I think, for fan fiction, it was fun. Parts of it were so obvious you kind of wished they didn’t happen. Some things literally made no sense in terms of the characterisation. The stage was beautiful! The props were beautiful! THE COSTUMES AND CHANGES WERE REAL LIFE ACTUAL MAGIC!

But that’s all I’m saying. #KeepTheSecret and all that.

2017-04-01 13.27.36

Taking back space

So. We’re a bit further into the new year.

I have accepted that I’m moving on from this part of my life. But I still want to retain the memories that I’ve acquired over the years.

I’ve been watching almost every fashion and aesthetic blogger that I follow talk about minimalism. I read all the articles on the KonMari art of cleaning. I watched the documentary on netflix. Researched the appeal of this lifestyle change.

The freedom that comes from not relying on possessions and purchasing to create happiness in you. It’s something I can totally get behind. So…

I’m embracing the minimalist movement into my life.

It’s kind of like, reclaiming the space in my house and making due with what I have. When I moved to cheshire for my undergrad, my brother moved everything in my room to the attic and moved in, painting over it and leaving me to sleep in his old (still cluttered, and yes, smaller) room when I came home for the holidays and reading weeks. Over those three years away from home, I accumulated so many things that for two summers I would only return to London with suitcases of my clothes and my personal electrics. Moving back home… These things take up space.

My room at university was bigger than my current one. Everything was a bit cluttered, but it didn’t stress me out. Having half of these belongings in my room, and the other half stashed around the house for over two years however… it does stress me out. I feel suffocated in stuff. Or I used to.

I am slowly beginning to take back my space. My room is in the process of being refurbished. My possessions are currently being evaluated on usage, sentimental memory and aesthetic- then being sorted and either gifted, donated, recycled or thrown away.

There is a bit of a rush in getting rid of things in this manner. And in the planning of what my room will eventually look like (and by proxy, what clearing the house of my other unused possessions will do). In between job applications, it’s a project I can work on.

I’m funnily reminded of studying Virginia Woolf’s “A room of one’s own” just because, well, I’m crafting a room of my own. One that helps me stay inspired, relaxed, creative and focused. A place, specifically carved out and designed for Fayola, to just be Fayola.

It is finally coming to fruition.

Very short Update!

I am a graduate!

I graduated today!

12 months are validated as I dressed up, walked across the stage, got my handshake and collected written proof that I had completed my degree in front of my family, my friends and their families and friends.

This is one of the better pictures my mum took (she has problems focusing for some reason).

Thank you to Kingston University, all my lecturers and all the friends I’d made along the way to reaching this goal!

EDIT: 27/01/2017!

ANOTHER ONE! Travelled all the way down to Brighton. My brother is also a graduate!2017-01-27 13.29.57

 

Gift-giving as the Book Auntie

I’m at that age now where I don’t exactly qualify as a “child” for Christmas anymore. I’m not as upset about it as I thought I’d be, because this year I finally understood our family rule, “Only the kids get gifts.”

I have accepted  my Auntie position now, and having worked the holiday period in a book store, with a 50% discount on everything on the store floor, of course everyone was getting one thing at least. Books.

Which meant I gained an Auntie category. I’m the Book Auntie now. The Auntie you come to with an amazon reading list the length of your arm, who will either slip you a £20 note when you’re in a book shop and set you loose on the shelves, who will ask you what series you’re collecting and collaborate with your parents so that on birthdays and Christmases you get to tick the latest installation off of your personal “to buy” list.

Everyone I bought a book for was under 14, three of them at that wonderful age where their book choices were tied between the 9-12 age range and the ever widening Teen/ Young Adult section. As a seasoned YA reader, I know that there can be some mature elements that I knew these parents were not comfortable with their children being introduced to. I had to make sure that along the way, I wasn’t exposing them to anything that would push them into maturity closer than they needed to, and in this process got to read books that maybe I wouldn’t have chosen to sit permanently on my own bookshelf.

It was a book a day situation. Sometimes, even the books I bought with the intention to gift (See: Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is also a Star) ended up a resident on my bedside table. I hadn’t read so much, so fast since the summer before I went to university. Then, it was a way to kill time when the schedules of friend’s didn’t link up at the right time or to escape from the boredom of being the only one jobless and vacationless before embarking on that next stage of life that was living at university.

Now, reading became a critical act. I had to take in the styles of the authors, and the actions of the characters. Would X like this long, winding prose? Were the metaphors too flowery? Was the text condescending in anyway? Was the story enjoyable? On the bus, on the train, during my mandated breaks, I would fish a book out of my bag (and I always carried two, incase I completed one earlier than expected), sit and read.

It was like the scene in Ratatouille, when Remy is trying to explain the complimentary tastes of foods perfectly paired to his brother. And after a summer of reading the genre I love only to analyse it, and three weeks reading anything that my Auntie Yvonne could spare from her daughter’s shelves because the lack of books in the family home was killing me it was liberating to have books that I could enjoy… and pass on without that dreadful fear of “I’m never going to see that again” when you loan someone a book.

Because I knew that was already going to happen. I wasn’t going to see these books again because they were bought with someone else in mind. And maybe they’ll have those thoughts in the future when they want to share these stories with their friends.

Today I gave the final gift of books to the last book giftee I acquired through my mum’s Nurse Auntie Conglomerate (Please, I have been running on BPT since the womb, and have only recently showed signs of improving that). She shrieked with joy. She’d been at the very same bookstore I was working at a week before and wanted the two books I’d picked, read and assigned as her gift, but she didn’t have the money to buy them alongside the other four books she’d picked up.

I start to think about my late godmother, who was my Book Auntie and if she felt the same happiness as I do now when I’m being trusted to provide a good selection of literature that encouraged putting the screen down and getting grounded in my own imagination. If she felt the same way as I do now, when doling out these gifts, as she did when I was first presented with So Much or Amazing Grace or Noughts and Crosses or Assassin’s Apprentice, then I know each of these books were given out of love and understanding of my tastes and my interests. And that just makes them all the more precious.

Standing in the Sun

I’ve forgotten how to deal with UK weather.

I spent three weeks after my dissertation hand-in in Trinidad and Tobago. It was the first time I had been back since I went with my dad to bury my grandma. It had been seven years- for perspective: at my grandma’s funeral, my cousin Dominique was five or six month pregnant- two weeks ago, I was getting called “Aunty Fifi” by several new (second) cousins under the age of six.

It was a moment of celebration. When I graduated my BA, my dad took me to Malta for a fortnight and we enjoyed a little bit of European sunshine while we could. MA completion got a level-up for vacation, and timing was perfect. My mum’s birthday was in October and she wanted to spend it with her family, we also wanted to travel somewhere and see family without the sad knowledge that we were also there to say goodbye to someone who had only been a collection of pixels on our screen as we face-timed or a voice on the phone that sometimes cut out due to connectivity issues.

My grandpa was in the family home my mother grew up in. He was planting all sorts of fruits and vegetables that would make their way to our table, and he was also taming a wild squirrel who know has their own dining plate on the mango tree overlooking the football field. Every morning I had omelettes or hard dough bread with butter and cheese, or just whole avocados sprinkled with salt and fresh lime from the tree in grandpa’s growing garden. The whole time we were there it was changing, air conditioning, building plans proposed, rooms becoming fully furnished, I got to see my mum project her vision on what a true family house could be for everyone who stepped into the house escaping from the cold countries that they’d all migrated towards for opportunity.

Every day, I spent at hours in the sun. Reading, walking, talking, sitting, playing.

And I was wearing bug repellant because those damned mosquitoes followed me around singing “fresh blood! fresh blood!” in my ears morning, noon and night, while leaving my cousins the locals alone for the time being. Everything tasted like the sunshine, the coconut bake, the coconut, the fruit, the cakes and sweets that my grandpa would call me over to taste with a smile wide on his face. When I looked into the mirror I could see the proof that the Caribbean sun was cooking me to the perfect shade of a rich brown that I was supposed to be as dictated by my genetic make-up and erasing the sickly yellow-looking tone that I’d gotten from too many years under overcast skies.

Then, three weeks later. After a slew of birthdays, weddings, cousin introductions and a mini-vacation to Tobago… I had to say goodbye. Again.

The day we left, my Aunty Yvonne joked “I don’t know why you’re spending time inside. Shouldn’t you be outside soaking up the sun?” She was right.

Even now I regret that I didn’t spend more time soaking up the sunlight, basking like a lizard in the driveway with maybe a sorrel shandy or a bowl of mango chow.

Things are darker quicker. The sun feels so weak in comparison, even when magnified through the glass of my bedroom window. The wind isn’t a comfort when it passes and sets the cold back into me. The sky is grey, even when it’s not “overcast” in comparison to the blues and pinks and oranges I used to see from the front porch at my mother’s side. The food doesn’t taste as delicious.

It is winter, and Christmas is approaching.

I’ve been working two temp jobs that require me to be indoors for most of the time that I’m awake. I only see the sun when I’m coming home mid-morning from my night shift and in the early afternoon as I get ready for a full shift at my other job. The brown shade I acquired is fading, though I’m still not as pale as I once was.

Most of all, I miss standing in the sun and the connective feeling it inspired deep down in my being to the land that my parents affectionately call “home” all these decades after leaving.

New position?

After my undergraduate degree, I’m sure I fell victim to the Post-grad Blues. Not only did I move far away from everything I’d grown familiar with after three years, but I found trouble in looking for work. It took me three months to go through my savings trying to not burden my parents and live as independently while I job searched,as I had in Crewe (even though I was living at home); took another month for me to gather up the courage to take the advice of some others in my position and sign up for JSA while I tried to get a publishing placement or internship or basically anything at all to do with books.

After all, since sixteen I knew whatever career I ended up in, bookseller, editor, writer, production (sometimes I even hoped illustrator), I always hoped the focus would be books… or magazines, e-books, blogs. Anything you could read. My mum always said, she wanted my brother and I to be happy with whatever we did with our lives- and when reading was my favourite pastime, the Publishing industry was the thing to aspire to.

My first publishing job search fresh from my undergraduate degree was not very successful. I rarely got an interview, and when I did- it didn’t get further than that. The stress put onto me while on JSA was ridiculous- I got the idea that they didn’t care what industry I got into, as long as I got hired and removed myself from the program ASAP. And you know, that internalised societal shame of being seen as too lazy to work or being a scrounger when in all honesty it should be recognised that looking for work is like a full time job in itself with all the various sites, newsletters, interviews and networking events you end up attending.

I got very nervous when it came to applying to positions. It even effected my MA a little bit- I was so sure no one would be interested in what I had to offer, and was sure to get no replies to the emails- let alone land an interview or get the placement that I needed (and wanted) for one of my modules. But I did, and my confidence grew. I had people reassuring me that I did have something to bring to the table and educating me on the topics where it was necessary. I left the course feeling competent.

Unlike some of my classmates, I decided I was going to focus solely on my dissertation over the summer. I didn’t want to burn out because I was so determined to leave my MA with a grade that I would feel proud of (because shame/disappointment was the initial fuel for my Post-grad blues). Now I’ve done all of that, I received my results two weeks ago and felt confident in my abilities. What I felt seemed like that “Imposter Syndrome” you hear about, although it doesn’t appear to have taken root, and for that I’m thankful.

This second foray out into the world of employment is different. I am more relaxed, and having made friends with those in a similar aspiring position- I don’t feel as unfulfilled as I thought I might looking for and taking part in non-book related work. I don’t shy away from the thought of stacking cans or waiting tables because I’ve learnt that I can’t expect to get a dream job right away.

And I do need money to buy all of the books I’m eagerly anticipating in 2017. I know I’m good for the job, any job.