BOOK’D: IFEYINWA ARINZE
Ifeyinwa Arinze is a blog reader turned Twitter & Bookstagram friend! I love reading her book reviews and it wasn’t long before I decided I had to have her on BOOK’D! She shares why it’s important to stay open, why she enjoys reading at coffee shops and a few audiobook recommendations! In this interview, she also discusses why the term “classic literature” is problematic and why she’s conflicted about book clubs. Ify’s writing is so enjoyable to read and so are her lovely pictures. You’ll love this!
1. What are you currently reading? Do you usually read more than one book at a time?
If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin is my current read. I’ve tried and failed, woefully, to read more than one book at a time, and let’s just say that I’m the perfect example of “you can’t serve two masters at the same time.”“you can’t serve two masters at the same time.” - @ifeyinwaarinze on not reading more than one book at once. Click To Tweet
2. Have you always been a reader? What is the first book you remember ever reading? What drew you into reading/why do you read?
I have! My mother says I’ve been reading I was two (she might be exaggerating, as parents tend to do). I honestly can’t pinpoint the first book I read, but I have fond memories of reading Enid Blyton. Books have always fascinated me- the magical experience of words coming together to erect imaginary worlds in which I can lose myself.
the magical experience of words coming together to erect imaginary worlds in which I can lose myself. Click To Tweet
3. What is your philosophy on reading? (for example, some people have to finish every book they start)
Stay open. Every time I pick up a book, I have to try to leave behind the remnants from the last book I read and open myself to something new. This isn’t easy to do because if the last book I read was mind blowing then I expect the next to match that. But, life doesn’t always work that way, neither does reading.
4. How often do you read? And how do you fit it into your day?
At the moment, I read almost every day. I read on the bus, during lunch, after dinner, right before bed, during the weekend, while I’m waiting for the bus or waiting in line at the grocery store. I always have a book on me because I never know when an unplanned window of time will present itself. But body no be firewood; sometimes, life happens and either I’m busy with other hobbies or in a rut.I always have a book on me because I never know when an unplanned window of time will present itself. Click To Tweet
5. Where do you like to read? Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever read a book?
I’m not super picky about the “where.” If I had to choose, it would be on my couch- it’s big, comfy, and my living room has so much natural light. Sometimes, I visit coffee shops and read- for a change of environment and the energy. There’s something exhilarating about losing yourself in the midst of a crowd.
6. What makes a good book, in your opinion?
It’s a combination of things: writing style (simple yet lyrical), plot (engaging and layered), characters (three dimensional), and thought-provoking themes. When all these collide in a book, I immediately want to spread the good news to everyone I know.
7. Who are your favorite authors to read?
Jhumpa Lahiri, Junot Diaz, Chimamanda Adichie and a few others.
8. What is a book or who is an author you feel is very underrated?
Since graduating college, I’ve been playing catch up so I’ve been reading mostly works by celebrated authors as well as new releases. However, an internet cousin (hey, Darkowaa!) recently reminded me of an author that I believe is underrated: Amina Gautier. I’ve read both of her short story collections (At-Risk and Now We Will Be Happy) and from what I remember she’s a brilliant writer!
9. E-book, audiobook or paper? How do you feel about making notes/highlighting books?
For the longest time, I was a diehard fan of hard copies. I’m still not a huge fan of e-books but I understand their appeal (lightweight and convenient). I will read them if that’s the only format I can get my hands on at the moment. I tried audiobooks for the first time this year ( & Born a Crime), and I’m a believer! I love podcasts so the transition wasn’t hard. But I might reserve audiobook format for memoirs written (and narrated) by celebrities. My next listens will most likely be Invisible Man narrated by Joe Morton and A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston.
I’m not sure if I would enjoy fiction as an audiobook. On the matter of highlighting books and making notes, I’ve only recently allowed myself to mark up my books, but it’s still a very new practice. I had always been told never to write in books so I’m still breaking out of that habit.I had always been told never to write in books so I’m still breaking out of that habit. - @ifeyinwaarinze Click To Tweet
10. Fiction vs Non-fiction?
In a heartbeat, fiction. It is my first love- the magical door through which I escape to other worlds. This year, however, I’ve been making an intentional effort to include more non-fiction into my rotation.
fiction is my first love- the magical door through which I escape to other worlds. - @ifeyinwaarinze Click To Tweet
11. What happens to you when you read a good book? (at the beginning, during and after the experience?)
At the beginning and during the experience, my posture changes from slumped to upright. My eyes are roaming furiously over the pages, and I’m usually completely tuned out to the world around me. At the end, I’m sometimes dazed, emotionally spent, and wearing a lazy smile of incredulity.
12. Do you reread books? Why?
The spirit is willing but time is limited. The desire gets stronger every day to reread some of my favorites, but then my ridiculously high stack to TBR side eyes me & then gains my undivided attention. However, I hope to reread Purple Hibiscus this year because enough time has passed between the first time I read it, and I’ve been meaning to revisit Adichie’s works!
13. What book do you wish you could experience again for the first time?
A Little Life. The minute I finished it, I wondered what it would be like to read it again but for the first time. Then I sighed.
14. What was the last great book you read?
What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky. This was a short story collection that truly took me by surprise in terms of author’s versatile writing & the unique nature of each story!
15. If you had to choose three books that everyone should read, what would they be?
This is hard because it truly depends on the person’s reading tastes and interests. For now, it will be these:
–Half of a Yellow Sun
–This is How You Lose Her
–What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky
16. What book(s) are you embarrassed to have read? What books are you embarrassed to still not have read?
The Sweet Valley books. I recently stumbled upon one of the Junior High books- big mistake. I almost wept at how terrible the writing is. But the person I was back then absolutely enjoyed and lived for the Sweet Valley crew and their ridiculous drama.the person I was back then absolutely enjoyed and lived for the Sweet Valley crew and their ridiculous drama. Click To Tweet
In a different vein, there are so many books I’ve yet to read. And one that I’m slightly embarrassed by is To Kill a Mockingbird. But chale, I cannot come and kill myself. There are too many books and too little time.
17. How do you feel about ‘classic’ literature?
When I hear the phrase “classic literature,” the words “white” and “mandatory” usually come to mind. Classic literature are typically works that have stood the test of time. However, the decisions on most of what is considered classic today were framed by racism, and excluded works written by people of color for the longest time. In spite of my complicated feelings, I do try to read them if they come my way and if I’m interested in the plot.When I hear the phrase “classic literature,” the words “white” and “mandatory” usually come to mind. Click To Tweet
18. How do you feel about book clubs?
Conflicted. They have the possibility to be the most magical spaces but I haven’t belonged to one that has fulfilled that. Yet.
19. What book(s) have changed your life, and how?
This is a hella dramatic question. I don’t know if any one book has changed my life, but several books have deeply moved me. Half of a Yellow Sun had such a profound impact on me because of the complex characters and rich (yet not often talked about) Biafra history through which the plot moved.
Redefining Realness made me question what I thought I knew and understood about those who are transgender.
This is How You Lose Her was so unapologetic in its representation of masochism yet beneath it all was palpable brokenness.
A Little Life had me shook with its simple yet layered exploration of friendships and the unspoken trauma that people live go through and live with.
Their Eyes Were Watching God was so beautifully written that I was in awe throughout the novel.
So many books have come into my life and elicited so many emotions within me. Together, they’ve all shaped me to become more empathic and open-minded.
20. How do you choose books to read?
Positive buzz. Recommendations from people with similar reading tastes as mine. Authors I follow. In the past, I worked in a library & would randomly stumble on books. I miss that!In the past, I worked in a library & would randomly stumble on books. I miss that! Click To Tweet
21. What book are you currently DYING to read?
Girl, it’s definitely Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi! I cannot wait to get my hands on it!
Ifeyinwa is a twenty-something year old creative currently living and working in Michigan. She works in clinical research during the day, and in her spare time is a voracious reader, photographer, and podcaster. Beyond that, some of her favorite things include listening to a ridiculous number of podcasts, keeping up with a lot of TV shows, trying to accomplish her reading goal of the year, and learning how to dance salsa.
Connect with Ifeyinwa Arinze
Podcast: Not Your African Cliche
Book’d is a weekly bookish interview series seeking to foster conversation about books and reading. Read our last interview with Suyi Davies Okungbowa.