Reading Around the Globe: Maria in Bangladesh
Welcome to Reading Around the Globe, a series here on Reader Voracious Blog geared at fostering a culture of understanding in the bookish community about access to books in various countries around the world. Each post in the series highlights a full interview with one international reader. You can read more about this series and catch up on previous interviews on the master post.
- What is your name? Hi! My name is Maria
- Blog URL? https://mariahossainblog.wordpress.com/
- Twitter handle? @Maria_writes
- Where do you live? I’m from Dhaka, Bangladesh
- Do you find that there is a culture of reading where you live? If not, tell us a bit how you came to be one! Yes, there is a strong culture of reading in my family and country. My dad is a bookworm like me. My friends love reading books too. And there is a Facebook group called Litmosphere where around 5.6K members, all Bangladeshis living either in Bangladesh or across the globe. And we’re a pretty tightly knit community who share our love and joy for books.
- What kinds of books do you enjoy reading? I mostly love reading from the YA category. YA fantasy and sci-fi are my favorite. But I also read other genres e.g. adult and NA romance, mystery, horror and thriller, also middle grade category. Recently, I’ve become a fan of verse novels after reading Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough
- Have you always been a reader? Sort of. I mean, when I was in school, I was more of a book hoarder than a reader, and mostly read books from my native tongue, Bangla. But after reading the Twilight series during its trend, I sort of began to read contemporary English books and my fear of English books disappeared. Before I knew it, I’ve devoured, in 8th grade, Wuthering Heights and Animal Farm.
- Do you also read books published in your native language/published locally to you? If so, tell us a bit about what kinds of books are published in your country! Sure! Though not as much as English books nowadays. But I do read them voraciously every time I buy books in my native tongue. In Bangladesh, a grand book fair is held every year on February and there is also now a book festival on November called Dhaka Lit Fest, where numerous well-known literary figures from around the world visit as well. But the publishing industry of Bangladesh isn’t as thriving as the one in USA or UK. We still have a lot to improve and a long way to go comparatively. But books are and will always be a constant presence in a Bangladeshi’s life.
- Are there libraries where you live? If so, what kinds of books can you find there? Are you able to get the books that you want? Not really. Growing up, I never really found the presence of any library in my life. Though there are a lot of bookstores, unfortunately libraries aren’t many in number. There are the national libraries across the city but they aren’t as popular, properly funded and taken care of as the libraries in USA and UK are (at least from what I’ve heard and seen from my friends on social media). But we also have this library, the Wandering Library in English, which is actually a small collection of books carried from one place to another by trucks similar to food trucks. If you become a member of the libraries (they’re sort of a chain library), you can read the books as they stop the truck in one place for the time. It’s helping kids nowadays a lot in spreading and nurturing their love and interest for books.
- How prevalent are English published books where you live in bookstores? (For example, books printed by HarperCollins.) Not much, unfortunately. Although you’ll find plenty of readers of English books published by the Big Five publishers, there is little to no prevalence of those publishers in Bangladesh. We don’t have Amazon and Book Depository operating in Bangladesh, so it is a lot of money and labor spent in acquiring the recently released or bestseller titles. Even though Amazon and BD operate in our neighboring country, India, we are depraved from their services. And from personal experience? It hurts a lot to see Twitter and Instagram giveaways being host that does not include countries where BD or Wordery don’t ship. And given that the USPS or other government services aren’t flawless and affordable, I don’t blame the hosts of these giveaways for restricting the giveaways. Amazon doesn’t ship here either so if we order anything from Amazon, we have to pay a huge amount of fees at the customs for clearance charge. So you can see, English published books aren’t prevalent in most bookstores and though there are some bookstores launched recently, they aren’t very affordable for the general populace.
- Do you use NetGalley or Edelweiss to request electronic galleys for review? If so, what kind of success rate would you estimate for you personally? I mostly use NetGalley, since I have had some success in being granted access to big titles. However, Edelweiss never granted me any titles at all. Even if they were from small publishers or ownvoices books. I’ve told them, time and again, how much my experience match or relate with the characters and the author of the ownvoices books. But I’ve never been given a chance to prove myself. So my presence in Edelweiss is 0. But in NetGalley, though my percentage is very low, I’m trying my best to review as many books I was granted as I can. But the recent policy by NetGalley that they’ll restrict access to request books from The Big Five from Intl bloggers is hurtful too.
- Do you experience hurdles or barriers to access for the kinds of books that you read? Please explain if so. Definitely. First hurdle would be lack of access. As I mentioned before, we have no Amazon, no BD or Wordery to buy books efficiently. NetGalley restricted us and Edelweiss do not acknowledge our requests, especially if we are small time bloggers just starting out. If any one of the aforementioned companies begin their service in Bangladesh or allow us easier access, a large number of people in Bangladesh would be benefitted, I assure you. The second hurdle would be financial. Most books aren’t affordable to purchase by most people.
- If you could make one change to the publishing landscape, what would you do?
Publishers granting ARCs to more diverse bloggers and readers. They don’t have to grant us physical copies. Give us eARC, that works perfectly well. Thanks to the recent diverse movement, we have had amazing talents in publishing from the marginalized folks. But diversity hasn’t reached everywhere. Not just among authors we need diversity, we need it among bloggers and readers as well. Most of the ownvoices books’ ARCs are granted access to bloggers who do not share any identity with the characters or the authors. This can impact greatly on the book’s early reviews. I’ve seen multiple non-ownvoices bloggers not comprehending the experience of a particular identity and thus giving it negative reviews. If those books had been given to ownvoices bloggers and readers instead, they would have understood the point of the books and given better reviews. I understand from reading a recent post that publishers are in a lot of problems themselves while granting access to bloggers due to the large number of requests, but it is important the books fall into the right hands. So this is the one change I would make in the publishing landscape.
- Help other international bloggers out… What resources do you use to obtain the books that you want to read? If you haven’t heard about NetGalley, you’re missing out your chance to have access to eARCs. Though NetGalley isn’t perfect in its service, it is a lot better compared to Edelweiss in my experience. Also, please join Twitter blogger community. Most of us are a friendly bunch and I’ve found so many friends here who support me and understand my problems and joy in blogging about books. Book blogging is a payless labor and requires a lot of time and attention. If you have a day job or are a student, then book blogging takes away a big chunk of your time. So join us, we will cheer for you and support you in every way we can 😊.
- Do you have any other experiences as a reader around the world that you would like to share? I’ve seen a lot of love and respect among the Intl blogger community. We understand one another’s problems. We support and uplift one another as much as we can. Though nothing in this world is without a few negativity, the Intl blogger community is very friendly and supportive.
Please note that all experiences reflected in the interviews are personal and are not meant to generalize what reading access is like in each country. If you are interested in participating please DM me on Twitter.
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Let’s go on another adventure together!