The Dubai group that’s on a mission to make reading ‘cool’ again

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Meet
the literary ladies behind the Dubai chapter of Book Fairies, which aims to get
people reading again by hiding novels around the city


lf-abeer
Abeer Acero, blogger and book reviewer, launched the
Dubai chapter of the international Book Fairies movement. Courtesy The Book
Fairies

Shahd Thani hid her first book at last year’s
­Emirates Literature Festival. The blogger and novelist behind the
­
Emirati Kinda Love Story series
chose 
Half
of a Yellow Sun 
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which she wrapped up in a
bow, and bearing a green and white sticker that explained its purpose. After
placing the book on a horse statue located next to Dubai Festival City’s P F
Chang’s, Thani kept watch.

“The manager was utterly fascinated and kept looking at
the book,” she says. “­Eventually, he couldn’t resist. He asked if it was
for free and if he could take it. When I assured him that he could, the joy on
his face was priceless.” It’s all part of the Book Fairies
spell.

lf-book-fairies-shahd-thani
Emirati novelist Shahd Thani volunteers for the Dubai
chapter of Book Fairies. Reem Mohammed / The
National

Free books for
all

Abeer Acero, a 27-year-old blogger and book reviewer,
launched the Dubai chapter of the international Book Fairies movement in March
last year
 with
an Instagram account: @mydubaibookfairies. Having hidden
more than a hundred books with the help of fellow volunteer Book Fairies, Acero
has been busy this past year.

“One of my life’s missions is to make reading ‘cool’
again,” Acero says. “In this generation of gadgets, most people don’t have the
time to read a book any more, and the younger ones feel like reading is boring.
I want to change that stigma
 by letting everyone know that reading
is a good and healthy exercise for the mind.”

Book drops to
restart January 1

If you’ve missed past book drops, don’t worry, Acero and
the Book Fairies are busy planning for the coming year. The next book drops in
Dubai start January 1. “We will be doing so much for 2019,” Acero
says
.
“I’ll be announcing a big new year fairy drop-off and, rest assured, we will be
back at the Emirates Literature Festival [in March], dropping books like we
always do.”

With titles such
as 
Beetle Boy by M G Leonard, The Young
Elites 
by
Marie L
u, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, and many more, you’re likely
to stumble 
across a book just
for you. The city’s Book Fairies have concealed titles all over, from beaches to
buses and, most famously, just outside the Burj Khalifa. “It was my favourite
book drop because there are a lot of people there, and the suspense of who’s
going to pick it up is exciting,” says Acero.

lf27-DEC-book-fairies09
Sleeping Prince at The Dubai Mall. Courtesy The Book
Fairies

She hid Baum’s The
Wizard of Oz 
on a ledge in front of the towering skyscraper.
“A little girl saw it and grabbed it as fast as she could. She knew the story,
had watched the animated version and was clearly an avid fan. She took it
straight to her m
um with a smile so priceless, I couldn’t help but ask
for a photo.”

The original Book
Fairies

Book Fairies now operate in more than 100 countries.
Volunteers are devoted to the cause of reusing and sharing books with strangers,
thus minimising the impact they have on the environment, while also giving those
who may not have access to books a chance to read.

The movement began more than two years ago in London,
with the Books on the Underground project, and has since grown into the Book
Fairies under owner and director Cordelia Oxley. Social media allowed avid
readers to follow clues to metro stations, malls and other public spaces to find
a book of their own. Oxley’s agenda is simple. “We promote reading, in any way
we can,” she says.

Last March, ahead of International Women’s Day, Book
Fairies partnered with United Nations ambassador and British actress Emma
Watson. Videos went viral of Watson visiting landmarks in London and New York
City, and leaving behind titles
 for other readers to find.
She chose publications
 from Our Shared Shelf,
her 
feminist book
club, 
such
as 
My
Life on the Road 
by
Gloria Steinem and 
How to Be a
Woman 
by Caitlin Moran.
Each book came with a handwritten note, encouraging readers to pass it on in the
same fashion once finished.

‘There is not a
particular genre that we share’

“The Book Fairies are all about equality,” explains
Oxley. “We strive to give equal prominence to male and female authors, published
and self-published authors, and a whole array of stories. Everyone has different
tastes, so there is not a particular genre that we share. We accept donations
from all sorts of places, including bookshops and libraries. There is a wide
variety of [reading material].”

It was also as part of the International Women’s Day
activities that Acero recruited Thani and other volunteers to hide
titles
 around
the grounds of the Emirates Literature Festival last year. After her first Book
Fairies experience, Thani was hooked. “As a writer, poet, as well as a member of
a local initiative – Untitled Chapters, a community for Emirati writers – I felt
an instant kinship with Abeer and the Book Fairies,” she says
. “I love the fact
that different initiatives can meet and, instead of competing with one another,
unite to help one another succeed and bond over our love for books and
words.”

The rise of
#bookstagram

Acero has been a part of the growing #bookstagram online
community on Instagram since 2014, and regularly reviews books on her
blog, lookingforabura.com. As a book-lover,
her drive for both reading and writing propelled her into the world of Book
Fairies.

“This is my first actual book project, and it has a
special place in my heart,” she explains. “The Book Fairies around the world,
especially Cordelia, have been very supportive. It’s a pleasure to be a part of
this incredible group where we get to connect and talk to people across
continents who have the same love for reading. It works like magic,
really.”

For more
information or to become a Book Fairy, visit ibelieveinbookfairies.com and @mydubaibookfairies on
Instagram

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