Why do you love reading?
I love that reading can push the furthest limits of my imagination, and the act of reading is often a peaceful escape from the craziness of the real world. But reading also empowers me by giving me the language to describe the world in which I live. Not only do books help me understand my own identity, emotions, and struggles, but I can also glimpse experiences that are very different from mine.
What book or series got you into reading?
When I was seven years old, my uncle bought me The Chronicles of Narnia box set, and he spent an evening reading me the first few chapters of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Even though I had enjoyed reading before that, hearing that story read aloud was the first time I realized how much I loved immersing myself in the magical worlds that books create.
When did you start reading?
I’ve been reading since I was pretty young, so I don’t know if I can pinpoint any specific time. As a kid, when I didn’t have my nose in an actual book, I used to stop and read every single thing we saw, from cereal boxes in the store, to street signs, to manhole covers. (My parents were, understandably, not happy about this.)
Where do you read?
Mostly during my commute, but I also love reading over breakfast or treating myself to a lunch out and reading at the table. When I was in school, I used to sneak books into class and read under the table (not that I recommend this, since I now teach).
What kind of books do you like to read?
When I’m reading for fun, I focus on fantasy, speculative fiction, and contemporary literary fiction. I also have a soft spot for epic, sweeping romance. I did start reading more nonfiction recently because I found such intriguing books in my graduate research, but I still read more broadly in fiction than I do in nonfiction.
For you, why is it important to read books by or about women?
I firmly believe that representation is some of the most important work that books can do. Going back to why I said I love reading, I was always looking for ways to see myself in the books I was reading, but unfortunately that reflection was often cracked and distorted in books by white men. Their imagination didn’t necessarily encompass the multifaceted aspects of my identity and of girls who looked like me. At the time, I related more to complex girls like Meg from A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle and Nia from So You Want To Be a Wizard by Diane Duane because they taught me that girls could be nerdy and stubborn and good-hearted and contradictory. It wasn’t until much later in life, reading authors such as Toni Morrison and N.K. Jemisin, that I understood the power in books to put words to both my gender and racial identity. For me, the importance of reading women is inseparable from the importance of reading women of color. Women’s voices are often marginalized in literature, and women of color marginalized even further, and these are the stories young girls like me needed to hear. Women’s stories and the stories of marginalized people make the world a more colorful and truthful place.
What types of books are you looking forward to sharing on Reading Women?
I’m looking forward to sharing more black and African fantasy, as well as Afrofuturist novels. But in general, I hope to amplify Black women’s stories, whether that’s contemporary narratives or Black girl-centered magical worlds.
What most excites about joining the RW team?
I’m excited to learn more about different genres of women’s stories from the amazing women on this team and to help readers find books that they otherwise may not have heard of. I’m also excited to emphasize the importance of fantasy and speculative fiction as women telling their own stories just as much as in any other genre. I believe the worlds women imagine are hugely generative for some of the most exciting analysis.
Bezi is a graduate student at Georgetown University, where she’s finishing her second degree in English Literature. After pursuing her love for fantasy fiction and studying medieval legends, she decided to focus on the ways that black female protagonists in mainstream fantasy intervened in Eurocentric genre tropes. When she’s not reading for her thesis, she’s watching natural hair Youtube tutorials or spending too much money at Target. She currently lives in northern Virginia outside of Washington, D.C., and she aspires to work in publishing in New York.