Zahrah Nesbitt -Ahmed founded BookshyBooks.com in 2011 at a time when the literary industry was still coming to terms with the impact of web technology on literary culture. Her work helped readers navigate the increasingly crowded global literary space online. Today, she is recognized as an early pioneer of African literary digital content creation.
Nesbitt-Ahmed lives in Florence, Italy where she pursues a career in Gender and Development. But books have always been her first love. Growing up, she was a shy child whose shelves never lacked books, so she was always buried in them; hence, the name of the blog, Bookshy Books. The site has become a space where she shares her love for books with a global community of readers of African literature. She publishes informative book reviews and curates essential book lists on African writing—two key aspects of her work that have contributed to making African literature relatable to a new generation of readers.
Blogging is not for the faint of heart, but book blogging is particularly arduous because it involves a lot of reading, immersion in the literary archive, keeping up with trends, and staying active in various social media platforms. This makes it all the more remarkable that Nesbitt-Ahmed has maintained her passion, dedication and, mostly, unpaid efforts to bring African literature to the digital space.
One of her outstanding curatorial projects is the Tumblr account, African Book Cover ( ABC), where she archived cover art of books, past and present. It was named a top photo Tumblr on Africa is a Country’s “Summer List: African Tumblrs.” BBC Focus on Africa mentioned it in an article as a “visual showcase for African Literature. It was also named as one of the six sites to check out in African Literature on afriPop!”
Nesbitt-Ahmed sees her journey these many years as a rewarding one. In response to Brittle Paper’s inquiry about how the project started, she writes:
What started in December 2011 in the living room of my family home in Ikeja, Lagos, led to writing about African literature in various publications, including Brittle Paper, BakwaMag on Nameless Narrators in African Fiction and New African Magazine on African Books to Look Out For (in 2016); to interviewing and being in conversation with over 50 writers – Nawal El-Saadawi (for African Arguments), Okey Ndibe, Irenosen Okojie, Ayobami Adebayo, Emmanuel Iduma, the 2018 Caine Prize shortlisted writers, Chinelo Okparanta, Leye Adenle, Nikhil Singh, Dzekashu Macviban and more; to being invited to participate in literary festivals – Ake Festival, Writivism, Africa Writes”
The blog has since branched out into other exciting journeys. In 2018, Nesbitt-Ahmed teamed up with Yovanka Paquete Perdigão and Sarah Ozo-Irabor to launch the Not Another Book Podcast. The podcast ended on August 13, 2019, after two fantastic seasons interviewing writers on the continent and Diaspora.
This nearly 10-year journey has had its rewards. Over the years, she has had the pleasure of “collaborating with some amazing people and platforms in the African literary sphere, including Afrikult. and Africa in Words; and interacted with amazing African Lit Bloggers (Kinna Reads, James Murua, African Book Addict) publishers and writers.”
Today, she expands the sphere of her involvement in the culture by creating space for writers to share their work. Currently, she is the editor of Rewrite Reads, a quarterly magazine featuring outstanding writing by Black women and women of color from across the globe.