#Spotlight On @Ilhamreads - Something Bookish

Welcome to #Spotlight. If you are new to the blog, this is the interview series where you read about the most amazing humans who love books and all things bookish.

Today’s #Spotlight is on @Ilhamreads. I started following Ilham long before I transitioned my Instagram into a Bookstagram one. When she published a review, I remember going, “man, I wish I could put my bookish thoughts in one sensible format like her.

She doesn’t know this but her account was among the greats who inspired behind my transition. Asides, her Instagram, she also writes for numerous publications, about books of course. You can find them here. I don’t know how she finds the time to read for pleasure, study for a PHD, raise the most adorable baby in the world and still live!

#Spotlight On @Ilhamreads - Something Bookish

I’ll stop gushing now. In this interview, Ilham shares her reading life with me. Enjoy.

Where did your love of books /reading come from?

I wish I could say I’ve been devouring books since the age of two like a lot of people on these platforms, but I’m afraid that wouldn’t be true. I didn’t read much as a child because I never quite found things I liked or related to (hello representation!). My love of reading was ignited as a teenager on our annual holidays back home in Morocco when a family friend unexpectedly gave me his used copy of Khaled Hosseini’s ‘The Kite Runner’. I loved it and I’ve been reading ever since.

Which genres do you especially enjoy reading?

Definitely literary fiction and plays, more specifically postcolonial and African American fiction. I also never used to read non-fiction but I fell in love with the genre when I read ‘The Good Immigrant’ a couple of years back. 

What moves you most in a work of literature?

Pain, suffering, trauma. 

What’s the last great book you read?

Hmmm. ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ and ‘The Nickel Boys’. Both reviews coming soon!

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BOOK REVIEW Gosh, gosh gosh. I don’t know where to start with this book. I’ve been delaying reviewing Evaristo because I had no idea how to do this book justice. But then I realised, there’s no use chasing perfection, let’s just go for it. Buy this book. That’s it, that’s my review. Kidding. It’s been a while since I last raved this much about a book. I mean sure, I’m not very greedy when it comes to rating a book 5 stars, but this one goes beyond that. This book deserves all the stars in the world and more. Girl, Woman, Other has everything I never thought I needed in a book. The book is made up of twelve parts (plus a concluding chapter that brings them all together), each one assigned to a black woman. The women know each other intimately or barely; they are all linked somehow. Each part has a very distinctive personality and vibrant voice, it’s incredible how Evaristo was able to breathe a very clean-cut identity into each character. The characters stayed with me for such a long time after reading, it will sound cliché but I couldn’t stop thinking about them. They felt real and it felt like I intimately knew them. Evaristo has the ability to somehow make you empathise with the characters – even the spoiled brats and the racist old-fashioned ones (extra points for her ability to write super politically incorrect characters, they’re actually such a delight). My favourite parts/characters were probably Hattie and Grace (special mention for Winsome, if you know you know). If you’ve read GWO, who was your favourite? The stories come full circle in such a satisfying way, I had literal chills while reading the ending. I might have shed some tears too. Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ #girlwomanother #bernardineevaristo #manbookerprize #manbooker #ilhamreviews

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Is there a classic book you never got around to reading until recently?

Yes! Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women’. Picked it up because of the upcoming movie with two of my fave white girls, Emma Watson and Saoirse Ronan. 

If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you choose? 

I wish I could properly read Arabic. I can read the language but I don’t understand everything, let alone sit down and read a whole book. 

Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)?

 Plays. 

What is your policy on book lending?

I try to avoid it because I never get my books back and it annoys the hell out of me, but sometimes I find myself in situations where I can’t say no. Don’t ever ask me to lend you a book, wait until I offer to lend it to you!

How do you like to read? Paper or electronic? One book at a time or simultaneously? Morning or night?

All of the above. I recently acquired a Kindle and it is changing my reading game! I feel like it makes reading easier, I’m not sure what makes it so practical but I’ve been reading a lot more since I got it. Nothing beats physical copies of course, and I am unfortunately the worst book hoarder (I used to be much worse though!) I can read anywhere but my favourite reading set up would be either curled up in my sofa at night time or comfortably seated in a coffee shop with a fresh iced tea. 

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

Maybe some boring French classics and some business stuff (not mine)

What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?

The Dishoom Cookbook!! 

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

Toni Morrison, Frantz Fanon and Bernardine Evaristo. Can you imagine the gorgeous conversations??

How do you decide what to read next? Is it reviews, word-of-mouth, books by friends, books for research? Does it depend on mood or do you plot in advance?

It’s always via Instagram: friends’ reviews, new hyped releases. Unless it’s for my PhD research I only read depending on my mood. I rarely ever plan my reading hence the lack of monthly TBR’s on my page. I just came out of an African American & Black British mood, and now I seem to be entering a classics mood, which I haven’t had in years!

If you could be born into history as any famous person who would it be and why?

It’s hard to think of anyone famous that didn’t either first live in misery or poverty or died a miserable death from some silly illness. No, thank you

What do you want your tombstone to say?

Hmmmmm, I’m not sure Muslims have tombstones, do they?

You discover a beautiful island upon which you may build your own society. You make the rules. What is the first rule you put into place?

Men do all the cleaning and laundry

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BOOK REVIEW Little Women is probably Louisa May Alcottt’s most famous novel, although she probably never meant it to be. The story follows the four March sisters as they see their father leave their home in Massachussetts to fight in the Civil War. Alcott wrote it in 1869 after her publisher asked her for a more traditional and domestic novel than what she was used to writing. She was a pretty radical feminist for her time and community, she chose to never marry and she most identified with one of the protagonists of the story, Jo, the spirited, non-conventional sister. The story is very moralistic, is mostly about being grateful, being a good person, doing your work and never remaining idle. The novel reads very easily and the moralistic aspect isn’t that annoying, it makes one question aspects of life we mostly take for granted. Alcott did say however that she wrote such stories because they sold well and frankly, she needed the money, although she was tired of writing what she called ‘moral pap for the young’. My main motivation for reading this is the upcoming movie @littlewomenmovie featuring Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan and Meryl Streep (yaay!). I also received the most gorgeous edition from @penguinrandomhouse (thank you!) as part of the newer Sisterhood Collection published earlier in the year. In short, I definitely enjoyed this, reading Little Women felt like being fully transported to a different, romantic time. I’d rate this 4/5 ⭐️ #littlewomen #sisterhoodcollection #penguinsisterhood #ilhamreviews

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Would rather sweat mayonnaise or have cheese for saliva?

Cheese! But only the non-smelly ones. Mozzarella, Parmiggiano, Gouda. 

What is your guilty pleasure Disney movie?

Anastasia.

If you were known as a strain of cannabis, what would your name be? 

I have no idea what you mean

Is there anything you would like to add?

Thank you for interviewing me on here, it’s an honour to be featured on your blog.

To keep up with her book recommendations and reviews, make sure to follow Ilham on Instagram, @ilhamreads.

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