A photo book with originally translated excerpts
of romance novels from Northern Nigeria
By Glenna Gordon for Red Hook Editions
"Beyond the headlines of bloody conflict and kidnapped schoolgirls in northern Nigeria, Glenna Gordon found love," -Rena Silverman, New York Times Lens
Red Hook Editionspresents Glenna Gordon's DIAGRAM OF THE HEART (February 11, 2015), a photo book that explores love, loss and creation in a region best known for the violent acts of the terrorist group Boko Haram. Gordon's photographs offer an intimate view of the lives and work of a group of Muslim women writing romance novels in Northern Nigeria. The novelists face off with Islamic censors, and they sell their books in the same markets targeted by Boko Haram suicide bombers.
Gordon's images choose love over fear, the abstract over the contrived, and the personal over the political.
As our fears of Islam grow with every new instance of global insecurity, there has never been a more important moment to look at the varied ways Islam is practiced, and the women whose lives are caught up in the middle of the maelstrom.
The novels are about love and marriage. Some are subversive and speak out against human trafficking and child marriage. Others are submissive, advising women on how best to please their husbands, offering fantasies of escape, and tales of the poor girl marrying the rich man.
Guided by the themes of these books, Gordon's photographs depict scenes of quiet beauty in a harsh climate and context: a portrait of a novelist draped in sheer pink fabric, a luminous bride in purple against weathered walls and suspicious onlookers, a simple drawing of a heart outside of a school in Kano - the kind of building that is at the forefront of a battle between modern learning and Islamist fundamentalist ideology.
“With Glenna’s work, we were interested in how these women were using writing as a way to not only make their voices heard as women, as authors, but also to reflect the various pathways that young women navigate in terms of coming-of-age, finding love and romance,” said Yukiko Yamagata, the associate director for the Open Society Foundations Documentary Photography Project, who was a curator of the “Moving Walls 23: Journeys” which features images from DIAGRAM OF THE HEART as well as over 100 romance novels purchased in the markets of Northern Nigeria and on display for the first time in America.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Created with reference to the romance novels that the photo book explores, DIAGRAM OF THE HEART includes 75 images and original excerpts of Hausa language novels translated into English that have never been published outside of Nigeria, as well as a special insert: a booklet of henna designs commissioned and printed in Kano, Nigeria.
ABOUT RED HOOK EDITIONS
Red Hook Editions, an imprint created by Peter van Agtmael, Jason Eskenazi and Alan Chin, is dedicated to making high-quality photo books outside of the traditional publishing model. RHE offers free workshops to bookmakers several times a year and aims to keep its books elegantly printed and reasonably priced to be accessible to a wide audience. RHE's first book, Wonderland: A Fairy Tale of the Soviet Monolith, has sold out two printings and become a cult classic.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Glenna Gordon is a documentary photographer who has worked in Africa since 2006. She's been commissioned by the New York Times Magazine, Time Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde, and many other outlets. She was the recipient of a World Press Award in 2015, and her other awards include the LensCulture Grand Prize for Visual Storytelling, PX3 First Prize for Portraiture, and the PDN Annuals' Project Award. She is also an Adjunct Professor at The New School in New York.
Time's Lightbox described Glenna’s photographs as “powerful images of significance, humanity and loss” and Teju Cole said her approach was “unusually lyrical” in the New Yorker. BuzzFeed included her on their list of "12 Kick-ass Women Photojournalists to Follow on Instagram," and she's been included on similar lists by Mashable and Huffington Post.
"I don’t want my images or the stories I choose to focus on to confirm our ideas about the world. Instead, I hope to expand our notions of what is possible. We can only understand the scale of this universe when we seek out its edges." -Glenna Gordon
To see more of Glenna Gordon's work, visit her website.
To receive a review copy of the book (PDF available as well as limited advance copies of the book), artwork, or to arrange an interview with Glenna Gordon, please contact Alan Chin at Red Hook Editions by email firstname.lastname@example.org, or Glenna Gordon directly at email@example.com.