Interview with a Bookstagrammer – Booklempt.gyal

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If feminist reads and Caribbean beaches equal bliss for you then head straight over to the bookstagram account of this week’s guest, Ph.D student and co-founder of Intersect Antigua @booklempt.gyal. If you’re struggling with the November chill, Sarah’s incredible photos will immediately transport you to white sands and turquoise seas. Sarah has great taste in books too – with a leaning towards literature that focuses on the experiences of Black women and other women of colour.

Hello from Sarah

Hi everyone! I’m Sarah and I was born and raised in Antigua. I studied French and Literatures in English in undergrad in Barbados and I moved to the US to pursue my MA and then my Ph.D. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. When I’m not exhausted from studying I enjoy ballet, tango, and taking pictures of books in sunny locales.

How long have you been bookstagramming?

I posted my first bookstagram picture, of Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night, on the 2nd of January, 2018.

Why did you start your Bookstagram?

I wanted to become a more mature reader and finally get through more difficult reads I had trouble with while in undergrad. I finally achieved one of my reading goals this year, which was to get through Toni Morrison’s Beloved. I also just wanted to read more and a bookstagram account really got me excited about doing just that.

Has your account changed since you started? In what way/s?

I didn’t know what kind of aesthetic would work well for me at first. I didn’t have a fancy phone or camera. I then realized taking pictures outside would be perfect. I liked hopping into my car to drive to a beach on the other side of the island just to take book photos! Now that I’m in the US I’m too busy to do that as much and my car is thousands of miles away.

What’s your favourite aspect of Bookstagram?

Connecting with other bookstagrammers from around the world who’ve read Jamaica Kincaid and reading the brilliant reviews and admiring beautiful book photos of my favourite bookstagrammers, particularly those from the Caribbean. Their writing really inspires me.

Do you plan in advance or post spontaneously? What prompts you to share posts?

I used to plan at first and post every day but I’m no longer able to do that at the moment. Nowadays anything could be a prompt. Something I read in class that moved me, a life experience, a major project, or just feeling like it.

Which themes/subjects/moods are at the heart of your account and why have you chosen to focus on these areas?

I’d like to think my themes are eclectic, but I do focus more on stories that center the experiences of Black women and other women of colour. Many of my posts are anchored in justice for women subjected to gender-based violence, decrying global anti-Blackness, coloniality, feminism, and more… The reason I’m drawn to these topics is the same reason I’m pursuing my Ph.D. in Gender Studies. I want to have the knowledge to push for transformative justice so that everyone is safe, protected, equally valued, and cherished.

What are your bookish goals for the future?

My bookish goals haven’t really changed. I want to read more books. I have so many books on my to-read list that I want to get through: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, Grand Union by Zadie Smith, The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin, Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud, Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat…I could go on forever.

Are you working on any projects at the moment?

I recently launched a website for a major project I worked on with some amazingly talented team members in a Caribbean feminist organization I co-founded. We curated over 120 stories, essays, poems, and artwork from around the region and the diaspora on a number of feminist themes including colourism and mental health. You can take a look at www.intersectantigua.com

Who are your favourite authors/books?

Jamaica Kincaid! She is one of my all-time favourite authors and she’s also from Antigua. As for favourite books: Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (I cried at the end), A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie. I wouldn’t call Beloved a “favourite” because it’s so devastating and brutal, but it is the most powerful and moving book I’ve ever read.

Links

Many thanks to Sarah for sharing her Bookstagram thoughts and passions with us and all the best with the Intersect Antigua website, which is full of fascinating insights and art. I’m off to add a Jamaica Kincaid novel to my Christmas wishlist!

It has been an absolute joy to speak in more depth to members of the bookstagramming community over the past few months. You can read about their journeys below. We’ve also included links to a couple of our bookstagram posts with tips and advice for boosting your account.

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