Mahima Sharma recommends ‘The First Woman’ by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
“I regard a book as a task, to be done and dusted. I read three to four times a week and I try to read 30 pages in one sitting. I’ve never read a book twice. I’ve been reading books like that since my early twenties. When I look back at some of the books I read then, I often don’t remember what they were about. Since living in Belgium, I write a short summary of every book so I can recall what it was about later down the track. I don’t want to lose the data that’s already processed in my mind.”
|Profession / function
(what do you do in daily life?)
|Senior software test engineer|
|Member of the Flemish Brussels library of||Etterbeek & Schaerbeek|
|Favourite reading spot in Brussels||Parc du Cinquantenaire, Etterbeek library|
|Favourite drink while reading||Coffee|
Usually Mahima Sharma (32) selects her books rather casually. She doesn’t go by reviews or recommendations and just picks whatever seems appealing to her. Not so for ‘1 Stad, 19 Boeken’ (1 City, 19 Books). This time she is on a mission, making The First Woman by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi her first choice.
“I have a keen interest in reading, writing and everything creative. Though it is difficult to pursue it because of time constraints. But I regularly grab some books in the libraries of Etterbeek and Schaerbeek. Since I am only able to read English books, my choice is limited as there’s usually just a small corner dedicated to English. Then again, even that small corner has hundreds of books, more than I can ever read.
I came to Belgium two years ago for work, later my husband also came and we are in Brussels since then. I didn’t have family here and had only a few friends. I found friendships in books. You don’t need company to go to a library, you can afford to go alone. In daily life the language was a real struggle, I had to rely on Google Translate. It’s getting better now because my husband is learning Dutch and I’m learning French.”
Done and dusted
“I like to visit bookstores too, though I hardly ever buy a book. If I take them from the library, I’m forced to read them within a limited time frame. I regard a book as a task, to be done and dusted. I read three to four times a week and I try to read 30 pages in one sitting. I’ve never read a book twice.
I’ve been reading books this way since my early twenties. When I look back at some of the books I read then, I often don’t remember what they were about. Since living in Belgium, I write a short summary of every book so I can recall what it was about later down the track. I don’t want to lose the data that’s already processed in my mind.”
“For ‘1 Stad, 19 Boeken’ I chose The First Woman because the story is centred around women and written by a woman. I wanted to use this platform to echo the importance of reading books by female authors and to encourage more people to do so. I wanted to give that priority, since even the writing industry is still dominated by men.
I also chose the book because the story is based in Africa. I don’t know anything about it, so it’s interesting to learn more through reading. Just like the author, I’m from a country that is taking its first steps in the developed world. Women in India are not yet empowered. I’m one of the few who had the opportunity to work. It’s like breaking bounds, just like the author is breaking bounds by writing this book. It’s a story about struggles of family, marriage, and work which women go through. The protagonist is a teenager who is neither good nor bad, just like any other girl. Like in real life, it’s not a fairy tale or all happy-go-lucky. It is important to me that a story is realistic. Even in fiction I still need reality.”
“Besides reading I have another side hobby: collecting information on how libraries and bookshops in Belgium work. In India, libraries are usually only frequented by people who are already in the business of reading and writing, like journalists. It’s less for the general public, without any of the corners dedicated to kids like you often see here. People hardly bring their children to a library.
Libraries should never lose their charm. When I go back to India, maybe I can help resurrect the library culture there. I’d like to contribute with small or big ideas. It would be impossible to do so in the whole country. But if I could even contribute to just one library, it would already make a difference.”
Text: Babs Verblackt