If you have any interest in international literature and are yearning for inspiration during this tough time, Seji is the girl for you.
Seji, also known as the Artisan Geek, is the most thoughtful and passionate book-related content creator that I have ever seen. I have expanded my reading list and knowledge of literature around the world thanks to Seji’s YouTube channel. On top of all of her wonderful videos, Seji’s website lists diverse reviewers and in her description boxes you can also find her Black literature compendium. It was so delightful to have the chance to talk with such a worldly and inspiring figure and I hope after reading this interview you are motivated to pick up a new book from halfway across the world.
JST: Hi Seji! It is so nice to chat with you about your content. I stumbled across your YouTube channel about two months ago and I have been obsessed ever since. Reading has kept me grounded during this quarantine and I absolutely love all of your recommendations and reviews. To start off could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
Seji: My name is Seji and I’m a Nigerian-Dutch mathematics student, who has been blogging about books for a good two years. The content that I make ranges from serious in depth book reviews to light hearted comedy sketches.
JST: I am curious to know more about your journey with intentional reading. What does this mean to you and how did you first start?
Seji: Intentional reading for me personally is all about reading books with the intention of maximising what you are able to get out of it. Using literature as a way of expanding one’s view of the world and creating empathy and understanding is why I love intentional reading so much. It also makes reading the work far more enjoyable.
JST: What is a book or author that taught you the most about a different country or region?
Seji: To be honest, it’s hard to pick one! Currently I am focusing on Japanese literature and reading Natsume Sōseki’s work has been absolutely detrimental for me in terms of understanding Japanese society and its history. Reading Osamu Dazai has also been incredibly insightful.
JST: Is there a part of the world you have yet to explore through literature?
Seji: There are so many! I have just embarked on reading more literature from Latin America and the experience has been amazing. I have received so many recommendations from the people following me on my journey and so much support as well, which has been incredibly heartwarming.
JST: From your content, I also know that you have a big passion for music, dancing, and art! What are your favorites at the moment?
Seji: At the moment I am really into Japanese artists on Soundcloud — it also doubles as a great way to improve my Japanese! One song I’m really digging is 肌色の川 (Hadairo no Kawa) by 長谷川白紙 (Hasegawa Hakushi). This other really popular song from the 80s I’m listening to is called Plastic Love by Mariya Takeuchi — I instantly cheer up hearing this 🙂
JST: How has the quarantine affected your work and/or reading?
Seji: Not much to be quite frank. For the most part I study at home and usually only go outside for violin lessons, so not being able to attend those has been a real shame. At times it has been hard though dealing with all of the bad stuff that has been happening in the world, but reading has actually helped me get through it.
JST: I also recently joined your Patreon and it is such a fantastic community. For this month, your diverse book club chose The Aleph and Other Stories by Jorge Luis Borges. Could you tell us a bit more about this community and your initial thoughts on the book?
Seji: Thank you so much for joining! I’m glad to hear that you have been enjoying the community over there 🙂 Being a YouTuber is an incredibly unstable career which makes it incredibly stressful at times. Patreon however is a great way to secure a more reliable source of income whilst building a community at the same time. I’m incredibly thankful to everyone who has been supporting me on the platform and so as a thank you I created the book club, taking people along the process of reading a classic intentionally. Borges has proven to be an absolute challenge, but the great part of it is that being honest about my experiences reading his work has created an atmosphere where we can all learn without judgement and that’s incredibly precious to me.
JST: What else do you have planned in your coming future and where can people find you online?
Seji: I don’t have much planned other than a reading marathon that I will be hosting over on my YouTube channel in October called Fortnight Frights. It will focus on exploring the horror landscape more thoroughly, excavating and highlighting works that have been buried beneath the rather homogenous surface of the genre and I’m so incredibly excited for it to take place. People can find me on Instagram and YouTube as The Artisan Geek 🙂