Monday, 29 August 2016

Embracing Sucking at Something

For the past three months, I have been trying to participate in read-a-thons. You can even scroll down my blog and read through my two attempts that I managed to document.

So when the Bout of Books 17.0 finally finished this weekend, I did a little soul searching, to get to the bottom of my heathen habits.

Here are the list of reasons I came up with for sucking at read-a-thons;

1) I suck at keeping commitments I am not bound to keep.
This sounds bad, and it is. But usually, if there is not this insane amount of pressure on me to get something done, I will probably not do it. Same goes for read-a-thons. On most days, I don't feel like sitting hours and hours reading books, and when it is due to failure of commitment, the feeling of accomplishment that follows, is not a strong enough cue.

2) I get distracted easily.
I have a million hobbies. A million chores that need to be done daily. A million people I need to give time to before I can pick up a book. All these things are on most days, exhausting. And when push comes to shove and I have time to pick up a book, that pesky remote eyes me and I end up watching Netflix instead.

3) I like my bookish plans to be spontaneous.
I love making lists. I love making plans. And read-a-thons combine all that into one. But I think, my reading and my books are one thing I do not like planned. I like the fact that I pick up a book at random times of the day or on some days not at all. I like my varying patterns of reading 100 pages in one sitting, and somedays barely making through 5. This I think is the strongest reason why I do not do read-a-thons well.
When everything in life needs to be done at a certain time and by a certain time, its nice to know that there is something you can do as you please, when you please.

On Detaching Yourself

How does one detach themselves from a piece of fiction that they are reading? Does it even make sense to do that?

I am currently reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, and while that book is beautifully written, it is intense. Blunt and glaring descriptions of slavery and violence, often times this book is hard to digest. But as I am reading it, I can feel that it is something important. That I should not shy away from it because this is not just fiction based in non-reality, but actual reality for people who were living at that time. I should not shy away from understanding what they went through, if only to appreciate how far along we have come as humans and how far along we still have to go.

So I am wondering now, should I even try to detach myself from the characters, or open myself to an experience like never before? Just raw and real emotions which will quite possible make me a changed person. For now, I am just going with the flow and dropping the book whenever it gets too intense, and reading something else. I highly recommend it to everyone though. It’s a work of art, and if it makes you check your privilege, then that is just an introspective experience you cannot miss.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

D is for Diverse

I have been an immigrant since the day I was born. When I was born my parents had already immigrated to UAE from Pakistan and when I got married I moved to USA. So, the concepts of nationhood and a place to call my own have usually revolved around the locations of my loved ones.
But when I entered into the world of books I realized that feelings of isolation in different cultures, the need to belong were real feelings which people around me were constantly aware of. That is the first time I decided to diversify my reading and read more authors belonging to similar cultures as that of mine. Maybe the feelings I was not feeling was maybe because I could not tap into them. That was the first time I read Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth and Arundathi Roy's God of Small Things.

Ever since then I have tried to read authors of different cultures, non-white to make it simple. Authors like Celeste Ng, Ruth Ozeki, order to grasp the void that everyone was feeling once they left their countries, their lands. I felt left out because somehow something in me was missing and I did not feel the need to find my own people, or to belong, I had been an alien ever since I was born and I was perfectly comfortable in it.

When I moved to the US, my reading preferences changed once again. Somehow unconsciously, the number of books on my shelves started to be by all white authors; male and female. The diversification that had been taking place in my reading before somehow was disappearing. I was avoiding authors that were non-white for the sheer reason that they could not communicate in English as well as the authors whose mother tongue was English (Despicable, I know).

Another reason why I often stayed away from such books was because I always felt that these books had exploitative depressing undertones. I had rarely read a book that was light or described a happy experience and that in my head was a good enough reason to not read them. But in my adventures as an adult  i have realized that you have got to take the sad with the glad. Over the past week  articles about the importance of reading diversely have surfaced, and I have made a decision once again. I removed all the books by non-white authors on my shelves and put them in front of me in my home office.

Over the remaining months my reading choices are going to involve authors that are not white. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying that these authors should be given preference over white authors, who so clearly are brilliant at what they do as well and earn their fame and name. It is just that I as an individual want to give other authors a chance too. When I have a conversation with someone about books I don't just want to give them names of authors like Stephen King, Grisham, Austen, Wharton (All of who are absolutely brilliant, btw), but I would like to name authors from all over the world. You know, 'Celeste Ng? She wrote a brilliant book about inter-racial marriage and coming to terms with being an immigrant in a foreign land.' You know Ruth Ozeki? She wrote a great book about how you may leave your homeland, once you come back it is never quite the same as you thought it would be. These are the kinds of conversations I want to be having. I want to be more empathetic
as I grow. I want to stop and understand where someone is coming from rather than label them or blame their ethnicity for it. I want to be a better person, and I think books are the best way to help me do it.