October’s guest contributor is Neymat Raboobee, the woman behind theimperfectmuslimah blog. She is a South African copy-editor, writer and professional cat lover.
Neymat has been an avid bookworm since she was five years old. She, like so many of us, read Harry Potter when she was seven years old and fell head over heels in love with the entire thing becoming an official fangirl. Since then, books have inhabited 64% of her heart at all times.
She is also a bookstagrammer under the handle thecrotchetybookworm. Her piece, entitled “Sudden Realizations” is all about books and their ability to unite us, the way they make us feel and their importance in the world. It has a little bit of everything with each paragraph presenting a new, intriguing thought. I really enjoyed it and found her perspective interesting. It is a very well-written piece and I’m sure you will enjoy it just as much as I did.
I will leave links to all of Neymat’s socials below, please do check her out and show her some love. Happy reading!
Sudden Realizations by Neymat Raboobee from theimperfectmuslimah
My very favourite gifts in the world are books – they always have been. Sometimes, the books I’ve received as gifts haven’t quite been the types of books that I enjoy or I just haven’t been able to sink into them. Unlike the rest of the books I haven’t been able to get into, however, these books remain on my shelves because buying someone a book is, to me, a very special way to express care and love. Even when it doesn’t quite go right, picking out a book for someone else is filled with meaning. You have to pick genre, have to pick subject matter within that genre and then, have to pick an author to go with.
Picking a book – picking a *good* book, at least – requires careful thought and consideration. It’s something I adore doing, and when I get it right, I feel the same kind of smug pleasure that I feel when a baby decides that yes, they do like the look of me and happily leans forward to let me grab them. It’s euphoric.
I keep the books that I don’t really gel with because they signify something that’s beautiful for me. They represent that person’s attempt to try and look straight at me and appeal to this hugely important part of my life – usually even though they’re not book lovers themselves. It makes me feel seen.
Books = Love.
From the pages to the spines to that almost sickly-sweet scent that fills the air when you open them, books are everything that’s good in my mind. There’s just… so much potential. And that’s what makes it so hard for me when I open a book, expecting to find beauty and joy and a glowing, sometimes glittering portal into the mind of another human being and then am faced with hatred instead.
I’m not going to say it’s like being punched, because it’s not. I’m not even going to say it’s like being unable to breathe, because when you can’t breathe, you feel frantic and desperate and you keep trying to make your lungs work.
It’s like falling.
Not the kind of fall where you slip on something. Not the kind of fall where you sit down hard and end up blushing in embarrassment. No, it’s the kind of fall where you’ve been walking down the stairs and then, all of a sudden, everything changes and you tumble down the rest of the flight and land in a heap on the floor. You feel shocked and stunned, and you keep trying to catch yourself on the railings that line the staircase but you don’t ever quite manage to grasp them.
At the end of it all, your dominant emotion isn’t confusion, because you’ve understood what was happening while you were falling. It isn’t anger, because you weren’t pushed into this. It’s hurt. Because you believed you knew what was going to happen next, you trusted the path you were on, and there you are on the floor anyway.
I’m not talking about a book that writes its characters complexly and acknowledges
microaggressions and positions of privilege and normalized bigotry. I’m talking about the kind of book that isn’t being clever or nuanced and is just plain lazy. The kind of book that trades on harmful stereotypes to flesh out its characters and doesn’t even bother to hide it.
I didn’t know what to do the first time I found hate within the pages of a book. At first, I tried to deny it. I tried to rationalize it, assuming that everything would work out in the end. I was sure that as the story progressed, the world would right itself and the author would address the issues. I kept reading, let myself get reinvested in the story and, as the pages began to run out, I began to panic when that moment of correction just never happened. I closed that book feeling all kinds of conflicted. I didn’t know what to do or how to feel. I wondered whether I’d been wrong to keep reading after first noticing the issues. I wondered whether I’d been making excuses that I shouldn’t have. I wondered if the author had made a mistake or had lived in a society where no one had bothered to educate them.
Eventually, I made my peace with the likeliest of truths – that I’d read a book written by a person who thought that people like me were oppressed idiots with no agency. And for a while there, I’d liked it. I’d known that words could be used as a weapon, and so could books. I knew that was a reason that at several pertinent points in history, books were burnt. The written word has a great deal of power, after all.
This was just the first time that I’d been on the wrong end of it. I’m still trying to figure out how to come to terms, but mostly I think that the best thing to do is just keep writing and reading and loving the good books. The ones that aren’t meant to divide, but rather entertain or explain or, if they’re particularly special, to unite.
Neymat’s blog: theimperfectmuslimah
Neymat’s bookstagram: thecrotchetybookworm
Neymat’s instagram: the_imperfect_muslimah