'Bookstagram' is an online community that started out as an Instagram hashtag. It comprises readers who interact with each other, discover new books and share their own ideas on what they read. The bookstagram community of Bangladesh is no different, as images, reviews, and discussions of books create followers and friends out of strangers tied together by a love of reading. Recently, Star Book Talk 2, moderated by Sarah Anjum Bari, In-charge, Daily Star Books, welcomed Bangladeshi bookstagrammers, Samira Ahmed, Sharfin Islam, Silony Islam, Musharrat Abir Zahin and Rameesa Jameel.
The virtual event trailed through the journeys of these bookstagrammers, while discussing their inspirations and favourite books. The bibliophiles are truly supportive of each other's endeavours. "I am an introvert, and fortunately, this community has allowed me to evolve, and interact with like-minded readers," shared Rameesa, a regular contributor of Shout and Daily Star Books.
Photography is also an instrumental part of bookstagram. "I spent two years coming up with the aesthetics of my page. I always use a warm colour palette to showcase my reading habits. Cosiness is a recurring motif in my photographs," shared Sharfin Islam, a student of North South University. Silony got into bookstagram, when she clicked some pictures for her partner's blog. She recently started using photoshop to edit her photographs for bookstagram. Rameesa, on the other hand, uses seasonal and vintage motifs for her photographs.
The recent 'Black Lives Matter' protests have sparked the interest of these readers. "Since childhood, we have been bombarded with white authors, which unfortunately, limited our perspectives in many ways. Earlier, we didn't explore relatable stories by people of colour as much," added Samira Ahmed, a blogger and engineer based in London.
Even though reading is a very personal experience, these bookstagrammers present a slice of their lives to their followers regularly. Rameesa organises her book reviews with personal stories, under a section called 'the verdict'.
"Certain power dynamics are involved with published reviews. I feel that social media is more democratic, in terms of opinions," added Sarah.
Discussing the negative aspects of the reading community, Sharfin revealed that the portrayals of toxic relationships in some books are problematic. "The depiction of strong women as emotionless, stories about unhealthy female friendships and romanticising cheating are some tropes that authors need to avoid, especially since they can influence the perspectives of younger readers," concluded Silony.