Egyptian Nada Al-Shabrawy sees herself as a mixture of a poet, reader and content maker, but her fame came through her “Bookworm” channel on YouTube, which she launched 5 years ago, when she was 22 years old, and today she has about 140,000 followers interested in the worlds of reading and libraries. .
Nada Al-Shabrawy released two collections: The first is “A detailed tour of a heart that is about to fall,” and won the Ahmed Fouad Negm Prize for Colloquial Poetry in 2020, then released a collection of “Curses” in 2021.
In our interview with her, she says that poetry in her life preceded her love of reading, and that she wrote her two collections years ago, but their publication was delayed “because the poet is not required of publishers much, and because I did not want to take advantage of my fame in (Bookworm); Rather, I wanted to publish in the traditional form, as any other poet would like to publish his poetry.”
a thousand books
When we look at the “Bookworm” project, we are drawn to the goal that Nada Al-Shabrawi had previously set for herself by reading a thousand books before the age of thirty years, but she completed this task several years before the deadline, indicating that the goal of a thousand books gave her an impetus to establish the channel; In the beginning, it was not related to the content industry; Rather, a challenge between her and her father: “It was like a game, and I did not imagine that it would have such a big impact in my life when I accomplished it and shared it with people. Of course, readers can read more than a thousand books; But perhaps specifying the number and age made it attractive.” She continues, “Now I am not at all interested in the number of books I read. It is true that I set myself an annual goal, but this is for the desire to maintain the habit of continuous reading and at a steady pace, and not for the sake of achieving the number in itself.”
When asked by Nada al-Shabrawi about the “dilemma” of readers’ requests to specify a specific type of books, she answers: “The requests do not end; But I am glad that from the beginning I did not fall into this trap, because during the five years that is the life of a (book worm) I was keen not to read a single book without having the real desire to read it, and also, I do not receive any payment from any publisher or writer for presenting a particular book , whether positively or negatively… I preferred that (Bookworm) be my project, and at the beginning I did not expect any continuity or great success for it, as it later achieved; Rather, my goal was to vent through it, as a place where I talk about what I love, but its success and access to readers put me in the possibility of falling into the trap (what the listeners are asking), meaning that the followers ask me to review a particular book, but I apologize for such requests.”
Criticism and review
Some may think that the book reviewer takes the place of the critic, but Al-Shabrawi sees that there is a big difference between them. She says about it: I never presented myself as a critic; Because the critic needs certain skills that I do not find in myself yet, from familiarity with the theories of literary criticism, and knowledge of many tools that I do not currently possess, in addition to the fact that the audience (a bookworm) is not necessarily interested in literary criticism, as the channel’s goal is to make Reading is normal, accessible and easy for everyone.
Books are becoming expensive, and every day there is a new publishing house and hundreds of books are printed annually, so my goal is to point out what is good, to make it easier for the reader.
An intellectual is not only a reader
When asked about the identity of the intellectual in her view, Nada Al-Shabrawi says: “My personal definition is that the intellectual is the one who admits all his shortcomings and all his ignorance and all his lack of knowledge of millions of things in life, and he is also the one who seeks knowledge.” She cites here the famous saying of Abbas Mahmoud al-Akkad, although he is not one of her favorite writers: “We read to move away from the point of ignorance, not to reach the point of knowledge,” considering that this definition is close to the concept of the intellectual in her mind.
She adds: “The intellectual is not only a book reader; Rather, he is familiar with culture in general, whether it is a piece of art, music, cinema, plastic art, architecture, etc. The intellectual is not separated from his current society, including the ordinary man of the street, the political elites, or the historical background that brought him for this moment. The intellectual is connected with all this momentum from the cultural products that appear around him, whatever their classification.”
As Nada al-Shabrawy is close to Arab readers who follow her content, she describes them by saying: “The situation now is better than it was a few years ago. I meet readers who are very young on the street or (online), and they are real readers and are interested in learning about very different things.”
Al-Shabrawi points out that the new generation of readers is more capable of making their judgments, without relying on foundational references that were necessary for previous generations, which she describes as the ability to criticize great intellectual and cultural idols, adding: “We find this generation when it reads more and reconsiders its views. , without being imposed on him by anyone, and this makes society more dynamic.”
Followers of Nada Shabrawy notice that the channel’s content has changed dramatically. She says about this: “The channel started 5 years ago, when I was 22 years old, and of course it has changed since then until now, and it is expected that I will also change for the better in the coming years. This is a live project, like any project in which mistakes occur, which can be avoided in the future ». Al-Shabrawi asserts that she does not try to justify anything at all, adding: “There is nothing specific that I said and then regretted it; But it is natural for the ordinary viewer to find that there is a difference between the first year in which I started and what I present to him now… It is not possible to limit a person to a historical snapshot and hold him accountable for it.”
Al-Shabrawi expresses her surprise at the amazing cultural movement – as she describes it – in Saudi Arabia, saying: “I have many followers from Saudi Arabia, and they come in second place in number after the Egyptian readers. I was surprised when I finally visited Saudi Arabia by the large number of young Saudis who follow the channel and are amazingly interested in reading and books… The cultural movement in the Gulf in general cannot be ignored by any sane person,” she said, referring to a number of prominent young names now, and the important leading publishing houses and libraries in The Gulf, which was founded in recent years, as well as the great literary names that have become a prominent place in Arab culture.