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 Jite.
Okay, the title might be a little misleading. Jite reads all kinds of books but her default and first love is romance novels. It’s 2019. Readers are getting woke and romance novels are getting a bad rep. Jite reminds us that there is power in reading more romance.
She is major reader goals. At the time of writing this piece, she has read 80 books and I’m sure when you’re reading this, she is probably on book 86. I don’t even know how she does it. But if you’d like to try, you can read my tips on how to make time to read more.
I don’t want to give too much away. Just read on…
Where did your love of books /reading come from?
From my mom and my brother. My mom because from babyhood she thought books were important and so apparently, we were read to long before we knew what books were or could understand what was being said. My brother because he’s two years older and my earliest memories are of him reading and my mom making him read to me as well. I thought he was the coolest thing when I was little and I wanted to be cool like him, so books, it was.
Which genres do you especially enjoy reading?
My all-time favourite genre is romance. I know a lot of people are dismissive of it, but I find a lot of it feminist and empowering in a way. In no other genre are you guaranteed a female lead whose story is the important one, and also I think it honours the fact that women can be sexual beings in the same way men are, and that women ARE deserving of love and of feeling desirous, pleasure, joy, respect etc in their relationships. It’s a genre where women get what they want and what they need, whatever society says, and where it is okay for them to pursue their happiness and achieve happiness whatever that means for them. And in addition to all these things, you finish with a happy ending, which is never guaranteed in real life, so what’s not too love (Steps off romance-lovers soapbox). I also read women’s fiction (romance’s less-ridiculed step-sister), chick lit (not the same as romance, “plis dear”), uplit, literary fiction, general fiction, historical fiction, and footballer autobiographies. So basically, mostly fiction.
What moves you most in a work of literature?
I love deep relationships between characters- it doesn’t have to be a romantic relationship; it could be friendship or a parental relationship. But for me, I connect to characters through their connection with others in their world. I love a deep human connection because those connections are meaningful and relatable to me in my own real life.
I also like unusual characters- not characters who choose to be misfits (for whatever valid or invalid reasons), but characters who are outsiders through no fault of their own, characters who can’t help looking different, or being different, but haven’t given up on making a connection within a hostile world. I find that search for human connection and human understanding and acceptance really moving.
What’s the last great book you read?
I’ve read some really great books recently. 5-star romance for me was the Forbidden Hearts trilogy by Alisha Rai which covers everything from the illegal imprisonment of Japanese-Americans in internment camps in the US during WW2 to mental health, sexuality, race, religion in a wonderfully angsty-romancey package. If you’re looking for a series to break your heart and put it back together again, it’s this one. It’s extremely spicy though so reader discretion is advised.
In non-romance, Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran was really good, as was Like A Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun by Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata was my jam as well, Behold The Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue was also pretty excellent.
If I had to pick just one book though, I’d pick Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. It’s in my top 3 favourite books of ALL time in any genre, and I recently re-read it for a book club and still loved it. And I think universally, everyone in the book club, male and female, genre preferences aside, loved it too! It’s also my top book recommendation for anyone trying to get back into reading!
Is there a classic book you never got around to reading until recently?
I don’t want to be that person that is like “oooh I’ve read every classic,” because of course it’s not true. I went through a phase between the ages of 11 and 16 where I devoured “the classics” and so I’ve read a lot of the ones I actively want to read. There are a lot of modern classics I haven’t read by people like Hemingway and Joyce and Faulkner, but then I’m not super interested in reading them right now. Maybe that will change later.
The last “classic” book I read was A House Divided by Pearl S. Buck in August last year. I read The Good Earth years ago and loved it. But then I only got around to reading the 2nd (Sons) and 3rd (A House Divided) books in the (House of Earth) trilogy last year.
If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you choose?
I wish I could read in a language that didn’t use Latin script. I’m not picky- like maybe Arabic or Hebrew or Greek or Japanese or Chinese or Korean or Hindi or some language written in Cyrillic script. I like the idea of knowing a different alphabet and being able to read it.
If I could have a superpower, it would have to do with languages and understanding every language and read in every language. Because I feel like we all use language differently. If you read the poetry of someone like Pablo Neruda and see the way he writes about love even translated to English, it’s different from the way someone who’s a native English speaker would talk about love even if they were being romantic- not better, just different. And sometimes those differences give you insight into the way people see life and let’s you know what to expect from people, and what their frame of reference is.
But back to the original question after a mini-ramble, a simple doable non-foreign answer is that I’d love to be able to read Hausa because I just want to be able to read those Hausa romance novels, to be honest.
What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?
I recently read The Farm by Joanne Ramos and it was a really interesting look at how close we are to “baby farming” and how easy it would be to justify it to ourselves even knowing that it is problematic ethically, morally and in every way. I think what I learned was that it’s very easy to be the ethics police when you’re unaffected by a situation.
Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)?
Sometimes, I wish I read more non-fiction. I rarely read non-fiction and I’m not planning to read more, but I envy people who do it. Within fiction, I wish I read more African (especially Nigerian) literature- ideally, I would like to get to a place where at least 50% of my reading was by African authors. But I’m not necessarily looking for African literary fiction of the critically-acclaimed esoteric variety, I’d be happy with reading African genre fiction, or African uplit, or general fiction written FOR Africans by Africans. I guess what I’m saying is that I would like to read more African fiction that is quality but isn’t necessary “high literature.” I would give examples but I don’t want to insult any authors who think their books are “high lit.”
What is your policy on book lending?
I used to be a lot more liberal. When I love a book, I want everyone to love it too, so I was a “borrow a book, borrow the whole series, you’ll be addicted” sort of lender. The free bookshop has however closed because of abuse. There are a select few people I will lend books to but even then, I don’t lend books that I can’t replace or can’t afford to lose. Same policy as with money.
How do you like to read? Paper or electronic? One book at a time or simultaneously? Morning or night?
I read all day. I have a Tomato-Timer app for productivity (you know the app that tells you to work in 25-minute bursts with a 5-minute break in between), and I read during my 5-minute break intervals.
I read about 99.9% electronic on my Kindle. I used to be one of those people that derided e-readers, but now it’s extremely hard for me to read a paper book. It’s less user-friendly to me somehow. I wake up and do a devotional first thing in the dark, I also read in the dark to fall asleep, I read in the dark in traffic, I read while I’m in a waiting room, if I’m in a social situation and nothing is happening, I will read something. I feel like paper books work better if you are a more structured reader with a good-sized bag and an actual reading schedule. In a practical sense, I don’t have any more shelf space because I’m a book hoarder and never get rid of any books- my father held an intervention for me (and my mom).
Also, I tend to read a book depending on my mood. If I’ve had a hard day and my main read is heavy or angsty, I might want to read something light and funny, and I have my entire library with me on my phone or my e-reader and I can switch between books easily- whereas with paper books, it’s a “you get what you get” situation. My 1000+ books go with me everywhere in my purse in my phone or e-reader which makes life easy.
What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?
Probably children’s books. I still have books from my childhood in the 90s like Sweet Valley, Babysitters Club, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, books by Enid Blyton, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Roald Dahl etc etc. I don’t have all of them because book
thieves borrowers, moving, giving stuff away, but I do still have a good number on my shelves.
What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?
For my 11th birthday, my parents got me a carton of classics (the Wordsworth editions that used to be really popular, I don’t know if they still are) including all of Jane Austen’s collection. And Pride and Prejudice was the first one I read and it was love, and Jane Austen is a major reason I fell in love with romance because her books are basically a prototype for all romance novels.
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
Oh dear. I struggle quite a bit with social anxiety and so I’m not the biggest organizer of events involving strangers and I don’t really fangirl in person. I’m already stressing at the idea of having to socialize and have smart, original conversation with people who’ve been asked everything by people more adept at dinner conversation than I am. I’d probably pick authors based less on how much I love their writing and more on them having a personality I think would be light, chill and easy.
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?
I depend mostly on mood guided by my TBR (to be read) pile. I have a loose idea of the books I’d like to read in the short and long term, but I’m not strict with it. Sometimes, a book has a lot of hype or promotion and I’m taken in by that as well (I’m not going to pretend I’m not a sheep, I am. Marketing catches me). Or sometimes, someone whose opinion I trust, recommends something, and the blurb appeals to me. Sometimes, I read reviews but usually by that time, I’m already considering a book and I’m just verifying it’s what I’m in the mood for.
If you could be born into history as any famous person who would it be and why?
I would have said Beyonce but I watched Homecoming and I don’t want to work that hard. Or sing. Or dance. I don’t know- someone megarich, megaphilantropic and only moderately famous for something in the arts or sciences, that also lived a peaceful life and died peacefully and happily at a ripe old age surrounded by her loved ones.
What do you want your tombstone to say?
Morbid much. Ummm… God’s Girl Friday, Beloved, brought joy, showed love.
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?
No stepping on others to get ahead!
Would rather sweat mayonnaise or have cheese for saliva?
Gag! I would rather sweat mayonnaise. I like cheese but strong tastes that linger in the mouth are unbearable. Mayo is only lightly pungent.
What is your guilty pleasure Disney movie?
Probably Mulan, I like the heroine best and I relate to her the most. I wouldn’t guilty pleasure Disney though. I’m not the biggest Disney-head, but I would own that ish!
If you were known as a strain of cannabis, what would your name be?
I have to google this. I have managed to go my entire life without actually ever having seen cannabis in person (I’ve known people who use it, but not in front of me) and I’ve never been up on the 420 culture or nomenclature, so I don’t know what the name format should be. (2 minutes later) I googled and there was of course a quiz for this. It says that my cannabis name is Green Unicorn Kush. Green is not a colour I’m particularly fond of, but I concede to the quiz’s superior knowledge and will go with that.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Nope. This is already long, sorry. It is what it is.
Are you not entertained?!? I love her so much! Make sure you follow Jite @la_lits on Instagram and on Twitter @NowBookingBlog. She gives the best recommendations!
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