#Spotlight on Jite

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.

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#ValentinesDay2019 I am one of those people who have ALWAYS loved Valentine’s Day. Maybe because I had parents who got me cards and candy and made me feel extra loved on the day, maybe because I’m about any celebration that involves gifts and food. But ever since I’ve had my own money, I’ve always made it a point to make Valentine’s Day special for myself because yes, we’re supposed to love up on each other year-round, but this is a day that celebrates that. ❤️ I always treat myself for #ValentinesDay because I know how mean I am to myself the rest of the year, I know all the negative self talk and the dream killing I do. How much I make my body and my soul put up with and yet this amazing God-given body still takes me places and allows me to function and thrive. It’s not everyday you get to say to yourself- “Self, you’re beautiful and awesome and wonderful and I’m so blessed to have you. Here’s a small token of appreciation for putting up with me even when I’m not kind to you and loving me enough to get me around and take my BS throughout the year. Even when I don’t show it, self, you are loved and appreciated and valued. Happy Valentine’s Day.” Maybe I’m a weirdo but those are the kinds of cards I send to myself with my gift to myself. To be in the day and remind myself I am loved and worthy of love and my love to myself is valid and important and the foundation of the love I have for others. I dunno, but that’s why I do it. That’s why I can never roast. 📖 I know this is a hard day for many people especially if you feel alone or abandoned or hurt or unloveable but I hope you take the day to love up on yourself no matter whether anyone else does, and to remind yourself about all your good points, and that you are loved and special and wonderful and that today of all days, you’re kind to yourself. #HappyValentinesDay everyone!!!

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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.

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#Random #SomewhatBookstagram About Finding New Hobbies. – I’ve kind of realized I don’t have many interests outside of reading, and occasionally baking and following Man United- which is related to reading. I don’t have the patience for tv shows or movies, I don’t really listen to music, I adore my friends but so far I’m not really the best hanger-outer. Being a bit (okay a lot) of a hermit, I like solitary, home-based pursuits. – Something people may not know about me is that when I’m on the phone or in meetings, I’m either taking overly-detailed notes or drawing. There’s no in-between. I’m not hiding a secret art talent but art is one of the few things I like that I don’t feel pressure from within to be better at (the other is baking). Figure drawing is my doodling- the place my hands go when my mind wanders. Ever since I read an article about #AdultColoringBooks being good for anxiety, stress and creative expression- I’ve been wanting to get into this kind of art. I’m not the most visual person but it IS relaxing deciding to have blue grass and pink trees and colouring outside the line and being okay with randomness and intricacy and imperfection at the same time. – This is a Christian colouring book and I LOVE the fact that each pattern has a bible verse attached to it. #SwipeLeft to see what colouring book this is and what the verse that goes with this first pattern is. – #NewHobbies #DevelopingNewHobbies #AdultColoring #AdultColoringBook #AdultColouringBook #AdultColouringBooks #christiancolouringbook #ChristianColoringBook

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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. 

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#Bookstagram #Book #75 of the year. #JustFinished #LagosNoir edited by #ChrisAbani 📖 TL:DR #ReadThisIf you like dark, gritty short stories and want to read some pretty diverse, high quality noir fiction featuring realistic characters with each story set in a different Lagos neighborhood. 📖 I’ve been aware of this book since it came out last year but I’ve never felt inclined to read it because 1.) short stories (not a fan), and 2.) noir fiction (not my jam). That said, this was the June selection for @something_bookish ‘s #IndulgentBibliophile Book Club. I was going to skip it but in the theme of “push yourself out of your comfort zone, girl,” I pushed myself and read it over a couple of days. 📖 This is a super readable collection. The stories in this are toilet-short, meaning this a good book to take to the bathroom and knock out a story whilst you knock out a 💩 without needing to be in there long enough to get a cramp in your leg. I found the unrelenting grimness of the overall collection really depressing particularly when for the most part, the characters felt very real and Lagosian, and thus, many of the stories felt plausible. There are some pretty hairy and dark but important themes in this- violence, crime, corruption, domestic servitude, mental health, religion, rape, incest, sexuality. 📖 The curator/editor of this collection did a FANTASTIC job with this book. I found the writing throughout to be high quality even though this genre isn’t my taste. My 3 story highlights were “What Are You Going To Do”, by Adebola Rayo, featuring a sociopathic heroine and a lot of dark humor. I also liked the much-maligned Nnedi Okorafor offering, “Showlogo,” which is probably one of the less gritty offerings in this collection, along with Leye Adenle’s “Uncle Sam,“ in which the hero was very reminiscent of the hero in his novel, Easy Motion Tourist (reviewed on my feed if you’re interested). Overall, I recommend this collection if you like noir/dark, gritty, urban fiction and want to try your hand (in bite sized chunks) at some believable Lagos pulp fiction that’s actually very well-written on the whole.

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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.

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#Bookstagram Book #73 of the year. #JustFinished #WithTheFireOnHigh by @acevedowrites 📖 TL;DR #ReadThisIf you love YAF and food-centered fiction and coming of age stories of hope with a young, kick ass Afro-Latina heroine! 📖 I’ve been reading outside of the genres I typically pick. I don’t typically read #YAF because I either find the conflicts too juvenile to be relatable or too unrealistic because you have 15-year olds reacting like they’re world-weary 49-year old international spy therapists. When my BFF @burshand10 recommended this book for a group read because she had been fangirling over the author’s interviews, I only agreed out of friendship. I was wrong. My girl has EXCELLENT taste in authors to fangirl over! This book is 🔥🔥🔥🔥. 📖 The premise is Emoni, a seventeen-year old teen mom, raised by her grandma, in her final year of high school struggling to navigate adult decisions. (Because adulting sucks even as an adult). Emoni has “the touch” when it comes to food in a way that triggers emotion in the characters who eat her food, but even in us as readers who read her food. 📖 What I like about this book is that it feels genuine- it doesn’t feel like an adult trying to write like a young person feels and it tackles universal themes that affect everyone: identity, love, fear, trust, friendship, regret, self-doubt, indecision, home, family. In this coming of age story of this young girl, we can all find a bit of ourselves and our fears and doubts and buried hurts. The language is honest and thoughtful and will make you reflect, but it’s also appropriate for Emoni. 📖 Philadelphia is a character in this book- the heroine’s Philly pride is relatable if a problematic place has always been the only place you felt at home (Hello Lagos!). Important conversations about racial and cultural identity, sexual consent, and negotiation skills are included in an accessible way. HIGHLY recommend this for senior secondary school ages/high schoolers (ages 14+) with a parental advisory on strong language and some minor sexual situations (but in a way pertinent/useful to contemporary teens and that could be an good entry point for some healthy discussion). LOVED THIS!

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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.

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#Bookstagram Book #65 of the year. #JustFinished #TheFarm by @joanneramosthefarm 📖 TL;DR #ReadThisIf you are interested in an incredibly readable novel that make you question the ethics around outsourcing pregnancy for professional reasons, and if you don’t mind your conclusions not being as obvious as you imagined. 📖 This is probably one of the first ever advanced reading copies (ARCs) I ever requested or received. I’ve had it since last year but wanted to wait to read it till it was closer to the release date (TOMORROW!). Well I’ve read it and it’s a wow! Not necessarily “wow” in a “it’s my favourite book of all time”-way but certainly in terms of the premise which is simultaneously “way out there”- dystopian but also incredibly plausible in our times. 📖 Imagine a world where you could outsource pregnancy and childbirth in a boutique designer way and have someone carry the healthiest, best versions of your little one’s for you whilst they basically breath wholesome country air, eat a carefully calibrated menu and drink water from the polar ice caps of Mars??? 📖 This book reminded me a lot of The Handmaid’s Tale except that rather than being thrown into a world that is jarringly different from our current time, the author starts subtlely from acceptable concepts like nannying and surrogacy then gradually escalates in a reasonable, value adding way till we’re all the way up to designer babies and paid for human vessels to carry them. This subtlety makes what this book is proposing less strange and out there. The novel covers themes of motherhood, pregnancy and childbirth, exploitation and do-gooding and the blurred lines in the ethics of outsourcing any of these things. 📖 It wasn’t planned but I’m also super excited that I read this during #AsianPacificAmericanHeritageMonth because it examines the socioeconomic motivations for immigration, especially for #filipinx (but really for everyone) and how culture and social norms can support exploitation. I really enjoyed this super readable novel. I received an ARC of this novel from @randomhouse through #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. #JoanneRamos ‘ The Farm is out tomorrow, 7th May 2019.

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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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