I have a confession to make, one that can be quite sinful or scandalous: I stack my books on the floor of my apartment. Unfortunately, I am roughly three-hundred miles away from my apartment, so for now the image above will be the sole representation of my hoarding. This is from my dorm room, where I stacked all of my books on the windowsill. I’m quite a fan of a vertical book stack; my Instagram saved section can vouch for this (it’s all book stacks and nothing else).
At my college, I work in the library. It’s literally my dream job. For hours on end, I shelve books on topics I’d never personally explored. I find myself constantly taking pictures of the spines for future reference, because yes, in the future, I will want to read a book about Chinese feminism, traditional Islamic art, or a biography of Mary Wollstonecraft. I recommend everyone who loves books to just wander in a library for a couple of hours, looking through every single section, and pick out random books. You’ll discover new books that you never would’ve imagined existed.
I recently swore off buying any physical books that aren’t poetry, because my tiny New York City apartment is tiny. As a result, I want to cultivate a little poetry library in the space I do have. I tend to buy my fiction and nonfiction on an e-reader in order to accommodate this new agenda. The books I do own, however, are sacred. I consider myself to be a wordsmith, and whenever I see a word that I like or find poetic, I highlight it in my physical copies.
My copy of Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is one of the books that’s almost completely covered in highlights. The books I’d have to dub as my favorites in my current collection have to be Autobiography of Death by Kim Hye-soon, Oculus by Sally Wen Mao, and Drifting House by Krys Lee. The most recent book that I’ve picked up is a copy of Cho Nam-ju’s Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 and I’m very excited to read it.
I want my book collection to be the truest representation of myself. I study trauma, specifically international ideas of trauma when it comes to post-colonialism and the treatment of women, so many of the books I read are by women. When it comes to national narratives, I aim to use poetry as a gateway to learn more about cultures unfamiliar to my own. I love not understanding what I’m reading, or picking up a book that will challenge me, because I know in the end I’ll seek out more context about the country’s culture and history.
Books are special little memories, especially when you annotate them. Some might think I’m a hoarder, but I find it really hard to get rid of books, especially once you have a personal history with them. I bought a copy of Carolyn Kizer’s Yin at a used bookstore near the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a copy of Call Me By Your Name in the heart of Seoul, a copy of Nicole Sealey’s Ordinary Beasts at a reading she had at my school. Others I might’ve just read at particular stages of my life. I think it would be sad to get rid of any of them. They’re historical documents, a timeline of growth and learning. They’re objects I’ll cherish forever.
Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is an undergraduate at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Her work has appeared in Into the Void, Corvid Queen, and cahoodaloodaling, among others. She attended the International Writing Program’s Summer Institute and was a Brooklyn Poets Fellow. Currently, she is trying to figure out a happy intersection between her writing, film, and photography endeavors.