INTERVIEW: Book Blogger Amal Bedhyefi

mal Bedhyefi is a Tunisian Book Blogger and Intersectional Feminist whom I’ve met on Bookstagram. She has great taste in books and continuously educates herself and her audience about the importance and the flaws of feminism. Her book reviews are stellar and her InstaStories are accessible to everyone in her diverse audience as she speaks Arabic, French, and English. Check out her awesome page on Instagram and follow her if you’re not already.

A: Tell us a bit about yourself, what’s your name, where do you live, what do you do for a living?

AB: Hi, my name is Amal Bedhyefi. I am 22 years old English Major and I live in Tunisia, North Africa.

A: How long have you been a Book Blogger / Bookstagrammer for?

AB: I have been sharing books on my instagram since 2014, back then I did not know that Bookstagram was a thing. I was just sharing my passion with my followers who mainly consisted of friends and relatives. Later on, I found out that there was a whole section of Instagram dedicated to books & reading in 2015-2016 and that’s when I decided to join.

A: What was the first piece of writing you published online?

AB: I can’t specifically remember what my first piece of writing was. I published a lot of articles in my blog ‘ Confessions of A Bookaholic’ (now Chapters Of My Life) in 2015 -2016. They were mainly book reviews, book hauls and book Tags . 

A: What was the idea behind your Blog / Bookstagram?

AB: When I first started, I had no aim behind my bookstagram. I was simply sharing my bookish journey with my followers. Having reached a decent amount of following, I am now more focused on encouraging other people to read and fall in love with books by recommending them titles that will not only improve their language skills but also educate them in one way or another.

A: How often do you write / blog?

AB: One of my 2019 resolutions is to write more often. Still working on that hihi.

A: What would you say is the most challenging thing about being a North African and female book blogger?

AB: I think the hardest thing about being a North African blogger/bookstagrammer is being recognised by other bookstagrammers, publishing houses, authors etc. I get more and more frustrated whenever I have to tell/prove to other bookstagrammers that we are not living under a rock in Africa, we too have all sorts of books and we are living our lives quite normally. However, for me the most challenging part has to do with being a female bookstagrammer. I am faced with the dilemma of  not being taken seriously sometimes. Being an outspoken feminist and a public reader puts you through all kinds of comments from people (mostly sexists), who want to take away all of the hard work and dedication you’ve put into your platforms. As a female Bookstagrammer, I’m either told to talk about fashion & Makeup or keep my opinions to myself and get back to reading romance.

A: Do you receive ARCs (Advance Reader’s Copies) from publishers? If so, what are some problems you have faced when dealing with publishing houses?

AB: Yes, I do (only when asked though). The only problem that I have faced regarding publishing houses is their refusal to send physical copies to Tunisia, they say it’s too far!

A: What is your favourite literary genre?

AB:  I used to enjoy fiction, you know, Jane Austen, Donal Ryan, Jojo Moyes etc. but It has been over  6 months now that I can only read non fiction books. I am more into the thought-provoking type nowadays as I feel like I  have a lot to learn about this world.

A: On average, how often do you read?

AB: I read every day, whether it’s a whole book or only a couple of pages. I always make sure to spare some time for reading.

A: Which book has influenced you the most?

AB: Oh! One of the hardest questions to ask. A lot of books influenced me in so many ways, but if I had to choose one, I would definitely pick ‘Pride and Prejudice’ as it is the reason why I’m majoring in English.

A: Who would you say is your favourite author of all time?

AB: Jane Austen, Nawal Al Saadaoui, Colleen Hoover, Chimamanda Adiche, Roxane Gay, Elif Shafak, Ijeoma OluoOh please don’t make me choose!

A: Do you have any preference in terms of books that you like to read when you’re on holiday?

AB: I used to pack light and cheesy romantic stories whenever I went on a holiday. It’s funny now that I’m currently packing ‘Good and Mad’, the revolutionary power of Women’s anger,  for my next week’s holiday . 

A: In your opinion, what is the most underrated book of all time?

AB: ‘Lipsticks and Bullets’ by Fairouz Abdallah. A heart-wrenching story about the war in Syria and its devastating effects . 

A: Would you say, in your opinion, that reading, writing, and talking about Feminism as a North African woman is an act of rebellion?

AB: Honestly, I do not consider reading, writing and promoting books about Feminism an act of rebellion. Standing up for women’s rights, speaking out on inequality, lifting other women up are , however,  acts of rebellion . I’m reading about feminism to educate myself . I want to know how did we get here, who are the women that we owe the achievements that are now being celebrated  to and how can we move forward in order to make a change.

A: What do you wish the world knew about North African, Muslim women?

AB: There are definitely a lot of things that the world needs to know about North African Muslim women. But if there is one thing that I personally wish to make perfectly clear for the world is that NOT ALL Hijabis are oppressed and in desperate need of salvation. I have been wearing the hijab BY CHOICE for almost 8  years now and it has never stopped me from pursuing my dreams and ambitions.

A: Where do you do most of your blogging? In a designated space or just anywhere?

AB: I enjoy blogging from Coffeeshops as I get most of my inspiration from  the people I meet .

A: When in your creative zone, what works best for you? Typing on your phone/tablet/computer or writing on paper with a pen?

AB: Well , I’m not an ordinary blogger so I don’t really have a creative zone. But when I am in the mood to write, I opt for typing. 

A: In your opinion, what are the main obstacles or problems facing Muslim authors?

AB: I think publishing  and mediatization are the biggest challenges facing Muslim Authors nowadays. Not all Publishing houses find representation and the need for diversity necessary. Also when it comes to the post-publishing phase,  not all bookstagrammers, magazines and bookish platforms in general  would want to  promote these books . 

A: Which forthcoming book do you look forward to the most?

AB: It’s  undoubtedly the sequel to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood.

A: Who is your personal (s)hero?

AB: My Grandmother, Mahbouba – محبوبة ( which means Loveable in Arabic) . She passed away 10 years ago and I still look up to her. She was wise,  gracious, generous, helpful, compassionate and soft-hearted. She was a ‘ Phenomenal Woman’  in the words of Miss Angelou. I  aspire to be like her one day.