For my creative project for English class, I focused on the book "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" by Lisa See. It's a novel based in 20th-century rural China that follows the lives of two women, Snow Flower and the narrator, Lily, as they experience childhood, adolescence, marriage, motherhood, as well as numerous hardships and tragedies. At the age of 7, the girls are matched in a special laotong bond based on a rare form of zodiac and birth compatibility. The book focuses on this laotong bond and a secret women's writing system, called nushu, that the women in the province use to communicate with each other.
For my project, I made an Instagram series, using photographs to show the different functions that nu shu played throughout the characters' lives. There is a wide variety of scenes, posted in chronological order and ranging from domestic, educational, sexual, and reflective moments over the course of the book. My goal was to create a visual counterpart to Lily’s recountings. As can be seen in the shift in focus in the photographs, the writing code first represents growth and solidarity, then sexual empowerment and discovery, and lastly, sorrow and loss.
I highly recommend this book - Lily's story is one of tragedy and resilience, and shares a culture and history that have been easily overlooked. Nu shu was not a fictional construction by See, but rather a real code that women in rural China developed and used for centuries. It is a symbol of female empowerment and solidarity, a powerful feat given its historical context.
Please check out this Instagram if you're interested! June Project: Nu Shu
Here are some photos in the series (special thanks to my beautiful friend and model, Maggie Wang):