The previously hidden world of Hausa romance books in now shining under the spotlight. It is a genre that has relatively gone unnoticed due to language and cultural barriers. However, it remains popular in Northern Nigeria and other Hausa speaking parts of the Sahel where the language is lingua franca. Hausa romance books are written by women in shorthand. While some are self-published and sold in open air markets in Kano, a major trading city in Northern Nigeria, other more popular writers have agreements with publishers.

 

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(Wikimedia Commons)

Although translated in English as romance novels, the books are not romance in the Western sense. They cover issues that are felt by women in the community such as polygamy, illiteracy, and child marriage. Hausa romance novels advise on marriage and tell stories that contain moral lessons to women of the mainly Muslim region.

 

One of the most prolific writers of the genre, Balaraba R. Yakubu, was recently profiled by Femke van Zeijl for Al Jazeera. She is considered one of Northern Nigeria’s most renowned writers. Married as an adolescent to a middle-aged man and now a single mother of five after multiple divorces, Yakubu has been writing for decades and has published nine novels in total.

 

Yakubu is the author of “Sin is Puppy that Follows You Home,” said to be one of the first Hausa books translated to English by Indian Blaft Publications in 2012. She is described as an inspiration to other writers due to her tenancy and constant dedication to her craft.  Some of the books Yakubu has written are based on her life experiences. This opened the door to more interest in the genre.

 

Glenna Gordon, an American photographer recently released a book “Diagram of the Heart” that she says is a love letter to the women she met while in Nigeria. Through intimate photos, Gordon documents the lives of the women that write romance novels in Northern Nigeria. The thriving popularity of Hausa romance books deals a blow to stereotypes of the lives of Muslim women in Northern Nigeria.

 

Have you read any Hausa romance novels? Will you like to see more translations of them in English? Let us know by leaving a comment below or reaching me on Twitter @rafeeeeta