#Spotlight On Jay, The Genre Bender

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 Jay AKA @nookandabook. If you have been following the Spotlight Interview Series, you would have noticed a scarcity of men in my line-up. it’s not that men are not reading, they are. It’s just tough finding them on Bookstagram.

Jay’s feed on Instagram is what attracted me. His book selections and recommendations are so diverse and interesting. And I love the way his passion for topics he encounters always shines through his posts.

Enough about me, let’s meet Jay.

 Where did your love of books /reading come from?

    My father was an avid reader and had a shelf full of the most amazing books. Also, my early schooling had a lot to do with it. We had a well-stocked library and a dedicated library hour where we were encouraged to read more. So, these two reasons are equally responsible for the book bug that I am today.

Which genres do you especially enjoy reading?

   I do not believe in the concept of genres. I believe that genres happen when great storytellers find the best way of putting their ideas on paper. So, I pick up the story and the idea that appeals to me irrespective of genre.

Although, I recently discovered that war/soldier stories are a definite no-no for me. I couldn’t get through one of the most well-written ones. Possibly because I am a pacifist at heart.

What moves you most in a work of literature?

  The ability to wrench out emotions from me. The ability to make me feel things that I didn’t even realise were possible. I am a person who keeps my emotions firmly under lock and key. Books are a way of accessing my own emotions. So whichever book manages to do that in the most beautiful of ways will move me beyond words.

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Why do we read? What is so interesting about the imagination of a stranger that drags us to hardcovers, paperbacks and reading devices like a moth to a flame? . I am sure that each one of us has a unique answer to that question. Let me tell you my own. I read because I want to live. I want to cheat nature and live out more lives than my lifespan allows me to. I was born privileged, I was insulated by privilege all through my life. Reading has helped me break down preconceived notions nurtured by my removed existence. . And this is where books have such an important role to play. To educate and enlighten the ignorant, to incite empathy in those who could really use them. Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other does all of the above with aplomb . This book is a collection of twelve stories connected via an intricate latticework of storytelling. These stories are as diverse and different as their protagonists themselves are. They are women who are people of colour, homosexual, transpeople or just plain women. . All these have been, and still are, criteria for discrimination. Evaristo allows us readers to sneak a peek behind the curtains of privilege and watch these fascinating women fight the odds, sometimes alone, sometimes together. She digs deep into the well of womanhood and becomes a literary Atlas, shouldering the weight of womanhood and its values and raising them sky high. #girlwomanother #bernardineevaristo #hamishhamilton #bookerprize2019 #bookerprize #bookstagram #bookstagramindia #bookstagrammer #booklover #bibliophile #bookworm #booknerd #bookgeek #booksbooksbooks #igreads #instabook #reader #readersofinstagram #amreading #bookaholic #bookaddict #booksofinstagram #bookphotography #bookstagramfeature #nookandabook

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What’s the last great book you read?

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction. But this recent read was all kinds of perfect for me. It was emotionally charged, and honest to a fault. And although it is quite alien (culturally) to me, there were many things I could translate and transliterate into my own culture, and thus was very relatable.

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

Actually, most of them. Even though I’ve always loved reading, I started serious reading only quite recently. So, many of the classics that people rave about are still unread for me. Wuthering Heights is one book that I’m really hoping to pick up soon.

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

Currently, I read in two languages. English and Malayalam, which is the language I speak (and is a treasure trove of great literature). I love reading in Malayalam as it is the most relatable for me.

If I were to pick one more foreign language (apart from English), it would have to be either Kiswahili or Japanese. I love African literature. If I could have only one, apart from my own, I would definitely pick African. Japanese is my backup.

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[Full review in English is up on the blog (Link in bio). Do check it out even if you don't understand Malayalam.] . The best way to describe KR Meera's latest work, Sooryane Aninja Oru Sthree (A Woman Who Adorned the Sun), is that it is a book which no man has, or ever will dare to write. For it digs so deep into the mind, body and psyche of a woman that the story stems from a place where no man has ever, or will ever, set foot in. . This is a feminist novel, and also an LGBT story. It describes the plights of people who dare to, or are forced to, walk on paths that deviate from those prescribed by the society. I had so many thoughts on this book that I didn't think it was possible to write a review that does it justice. Do check out my humble attempt on my blog. . This novel talks about many matters and issues. But through all that, its primary aim is to flay societal norms. With a strong protagonist at its core, this book takes the reader to the hot, scalding core of a woman’s afflicted soul. . I don't know if it will be published in English but I sincerely hope it does. For this is one book that should be read by everyone. . . #suryaneaninjaorusthree #krmeera #jezebel #malayalam #kerala #readingmymothertongue #lgbt #feminist #dcbooks #bookstagram #bookstagramindia #bookstagrammer #booklover #bibliophile #bookworm #booknerd #bookgeek #booksbooksbooks #igreads #instabook #reader #readersofinstagram #amreading #bookaholic #bookaddict #booksofinstagram #bookphotography #biblioteca #bookstagramfeature #nookandabook

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Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)?

Science fiction. I’m not averse to science fiction as I am to war fiction. But for some reason, I’ve always drifted away from it. I hope to read more science fiction in the future.

What is your policy on book lending?

If I lend you a book, I trust you with my life.

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

I’ve always been a paper and one book at a time person. But recently, I’ve started reading multiple books at a time, as life has become more hectic of late, and I want to get more from my bookshelf.

And I live in a city where, at times, traffic comes to a standstill for hours on end. I’ve decided to get my own back at traffic congestions by listening to audiobooks in the car. So currently, I read up to three books at a time. And I read paper as well as listen to audiobooks.

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Book Review: The setting is Victorian London, complete with a dense and dirty fog hovering above the city. A child is missing. A child who is special. A child who is different. A child who summons storms and drowns people on dry land. It is up to Bridie Devine, private eye and human anatomy expert, to find the child and uncover the mystery that surrounds her. Her housemaid, Cora is “the only, and most terrifying, seven-foot-tall housemaid in London”. And Bridie sees ghosts. At least one, a prize-fighter by the name of Ruby Doyle, one of the finest non-living characters that I have come across. All these extraordinary pieces are woven together with flair by Jess Kidd to build her third novel, Things in Jars. . With Things in Jars, Jess Kidd has carved a niche for herself in the world of storytelling. Interweaving crime fiction with the supernatural in a way that is quite unique, she has announced herself as a force to reckon with. For a page turning thriller with scares, twists and a lot of heart, do read Things in Jars by Jess Kidd. . . Jar artwork by @ode_to_art . #thingsinjars #jesskidd #supernatural #thriller #crime #victorian #london #bookstagram #bookstagramindia #bookstagrammer #booklover #bibliophile #bookworm #booknerd #bookgeek #booksbooksbooks #igreads #instabook #reader #readersofinstagram #amreading #bookaholic #bookaddict #booksofinstagram #bookphotography #bookstagramfeature #nookandabook

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

  The Mastermind Quizbook by Magnus Magnusson. I don’t think many people know that I’m an avid quizzer.

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

Bleak House by Charles Dickens. In my opinion, it’s the best and most underrated of his works.

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

Arundhati Roy, George Orwell and James Baldwin. And (I’m cheating) Toni Morrison. Wow, just thinking about that party gives me goosebumps.

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?

The time between books is my favourite. Because I don’t pre-plan my next read. I pick up whichever it is that I feel like at that moment. Of course, there would be a group of books to choose from. And those I choose mostly from bookstagram reviews. Those are the ones I trust the most.

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

Toni Morrison. It takes incredible courage to translate your worst experiences into indescribably beautiful works of art.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

I fought, I tried, I received, I gave back.

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?

Discrimination based on any quality is a punishable offence. As a member of a society where discrimination has been institutionalised, it pains me to see fellow human beings being considered as lesser, based on parameters that aren’t in anybody’s control. Like caste, skin colour, gender and sexual orientation.

Would rather sweat mayonnaise or have cheese for saliva?

I’d sweat mayonnaise. I’d rather have the choice of tasting.

What is your guilty pleasure Disney movie?

Blackbeard’s Ghost.

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I wouldn’t be wrong in saying that the past year hasn’t been great for minority groups. Racial, religious and caste-based inequality is on the rise. And this is a worldwide phenomenon. In Friday Black, debutant Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah dials the brutality of these inequalities all the way to eleven. Through a set of short stories, he creates a dystopian nightmare that closely mirrors reality. . This book has to come with a mandatory trigger warning. The goings-on in these stories are not for the faint hearted. They are filled with gruesome murders, bloodshed and blood curling mistreatment of minorities. It is set in the United States, so the main victims of the book’s injustices are members of the African American community. . Friday Black is a warrior cry against atrocities committed in the name of race, religion and gender. It lays bare the hypocrisy and prejudice that the privileged strata of society garner against the others. This book is one of the most violent and bloody reads of recent times. But what makes it shine is that, despite all the gore, it is filled with hope and heart. And this is where Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah excels. This is not a basic slash and hack porn. He balances violence and tenderness with aplomb. He gets the reader to believe that though times are bad, there is always room for hope. One of the finest short story collections of the year. Highly recommended. . . . . #fridayblack #nanakwameadjeibrenyah #shortstories #socialinequality #justice #racism #consumerism #blackfriday #black #friday #bookstagram #bookstagramindia #bookstagrammer #booklover #bibliophile #bookworm #booknerd #bookgeek #booksbooksbooks #bookart #igreads #instabook #reader #readersofinstagram #amreading #hmhbooks #riverrun #review #bookreview #nookandabook

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

Something I wish I had some minute idea about…

Is there anything you would like to add?

Bookstagram has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me. At a time when I was lost in a lot of ways, it was this wonderful community that got me back on my feet. I would forever be grateful for all of you wonderful people.

Wasn’t that refreshing to read? Don’t forget to follow Jay on Instagram and on Twitter.  Also, check out his blog, A Nook & A Storybook.

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