Creator Spotlight: Nada Gaweish

Nada standing in front of a library holding a stack of books wearing a white orange and black scarf and a white and orange blouse

You may know Nada through her popular bookstagram account Africaanah, where her bubbly personality and passion for books (and her FRIENDS addiction) are guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

For those that aren’t in the know, Bookstagrams are accounts that focus on stylized images of books, book-related activities, reviews, and slice-of-life as well as behind the scenes of the account’s owners. They offer an intimate way for authors and the reading community to explore different genres and story-telling styles.

Creativity Undefined spoke with Nada about shifting to a ‘new normal’ , the pandemic’s impact on the publishing industry, and upcoming projects (including her bookstagram theme for 20201).

Let’s start with the obvious: What’s the inspiration behind the name ‘africaanah’?

I was forever looking for a new handle for my Instagram page. Then after reading and relating so much to Adichie’s book Americanah, I couldn’t have found a better one than africaanah. And well, I am African!

Looking back, how have you and your account evolved?

I most certainly think that I have grown so much as much as my account have. I feel like I have purpose now. I’ve inspired a lot, not just to read, but to embrace who they are as well and to find their own passion.

Have you seen any shift in attitudes to accounts like yours compared to when you first started? 

I feel, as bookworms and book bloggers, we are given this little extra treatment. I find people are much nicer, they try to get us as comfortable as possible in a cafe when they see I am carrying a book. 

How do you think bookstagrams compare to traditional book reviewers? 

We are more than just about reading and reviewing books. We talk about our love books, our reading goals, our struggles to stick to our TBRs( to be read) Reading slumps and how to overcome it. Our habits and lives whether reading or not.

What’s the most surprising thing that’s happened to you since starting your journey?

Writing my own poetry and performing them! I never really had an interest in poetry. It was one of my least favourite genres to read but after attending a poetry slam in a festival one day, I was hooked. And I was mostly surprised that I was able to write some of my own.

Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of starting their own bookstagram?

You don’t need any fancy props to start a page. All you need is a book and your words. Be you, be unique, have fun and stop worrying about numbers. We are an awesome community, with the goal to connect, share and talk about our love for books.

Nada smiling at the camera wearing a blue scarf and blue outfit

Let’s shift things for a bit. How are you surviving COVD-19 so far?

It wasn’t so easy to get where I am right now. As most people, I got anxious, I panicked at the beginning, thinking of the worst till I found a way to turn things around and appreciate what is given to us right now. So I guess I’m trying to say, I’m alive and I’m thankful for that. Anything else doesn’t matter as much as that.

What are you looking forward to the most once life returns to ‘normal’?

Starting our book club again. Meeting and hanging out with other bookworms is something that I have totally missed. It’s just not the same when it’s done over the camera.

Has the pandemic affected your bookstagram activities? How?

Yes, it certainly had. I used to spend a lot of time relaxing and reading at my favourite cafes. I used to take pictures when I’m there with my books and coffee as well for my Instagram page.

Nada standing in front of a book library holding up a book and wearing FRIENDS merchandise

Have you seen any shifts or trends, whether from the reading community or publishing community since the pandemic began?

I would be lying if I said there were no changes.

One of the major changes was changing my reading goals for the year. I didn’t read as much, it was hard to focus with everything that’s happening around us. And it was a happening all around the reading community. We really thought since we are in lockdown, we’d be reading much more, but that wasn’t the case.

I was also picky with my choice of reads. I tend to read more “feel good” books as I didn’t think I could handle reading anything that would add to the stress of the lockdown and the pandemic.

We don’t get as much books from publishers as well because of the pandemic and new shipping rules.

What’s the biggest one in your opinion? Why?

Getting ARCS [Advanced Reader Copy] from publishers. As my role as an influencer, it was a big part of my page to read and review those books before they hit the stores.

Do you think these will continue in 2021 and beyond?

I am praying and hoping not. Already feeling optimistic since things are already changing for the better. Bookstores are open now so that’s something to be happy about!

Nada sitting on a yellow chair holding up a book showing socks with book nerd written on them and a book library in the background

What are your top five book or authors? Why?

Agatha Christie – I grew up reading her books and Thriller/Mystery is my favorite genre.

Nicholas Sparks – His books are so moving. And I love that his books have just the right amount of romance needed. Nothing to mushy or cringy.

Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie is one of favorite books. Reading her book introduced me to African Literature which I found to be so different from what I usually read. Raw, bold with relevant settings and relatable storylines.

Sidney Sheldon is another favorite author of mine. I can’t count the many times I have read his books.

Colleen Hoover is a newly found author that I cannot stop raving about. She never ceases to surprise me with every new released book of hers. Always something different and unexpected.

Your FRIENDS theme seems to be a big hit. What do you think about that? How long did it take you to plan it?

Ok a secret of mine, it was totally unplanned *laughs

I was a big fan of friends since the show aired and I used to watch it over and over again. On their 25th anniversary, they launched lovely merchandise that I totally had to own. I just bought a mug and a pillow and starting taking Bookstagram pictures with them. God Bless my own friends who starting gifting me with every friends related item they could find.

Are you working on a new theme for 2021? If yes, can you reveal what it is – or at least give us a little hint?

*smiles at the word “new theme” I might have, yes! Let’s just say that it could involve connecting with my roots more. *wink

Are you working on any projects? Can you tell us more about them?

I’m actually overwhelmed with the many plans I have for the next year. You might see me out and about more, new reading list projects that I am hoping to involve as many readers as possible and new goals that I want to share the journey of with my followers hoping to inspire them to do the same.

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