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Book of the Week: A Pick by Jon Evans

Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Jon Evans Jon Evans selects Evidence by Diana Matar as Book of the Week.
Evidence. By Diana Matar. 
Schilt Publishing, 2015.
This week's Book of the Week pick comes from Jon Evans who has selected Evidence by Diana Matar from Schilt Publishing.

"I met Diana Matar at FotoFest in Houston in 2014. We sat at a table amidst the hubbub of reviewers and photographers in an expansive hotel lobby. She quietly yet deliberatively shared her limited edition book that has since been published in a trade edition by Schilt. It appeared less as a traditional book and more like a carefully crafted family album, though not one with photos of loved ones or full of nostalgic landscapes. Instead I found a work full of associative visual and textual markers representing the presence of a family member seen through the eyes of those who remain behind. As we talked further about her work, the book and her family, it became evident how intimate and painful this body of work has been and remains for her. Equal to the sense of loss was a resilience and strength that came through in the directness of the language and the lyricism of the images.

The text from the belly-band of the trade edition states that this is a book about her father-in-law, Jaballa Matar, a Libyan opposition leader during the Gaddafi regime. He was kidnapped in 1990 and has remained missing.

In viewing the trade edition today, I’m pleased to see that this version deviates little from the original limited edition — save the explanatory belly-band. It retains a self-effacing modesty about what lies within as if it is unseemly to speak of the missing or perhaps dangerous to give away too much in a world where information can lead to unintended consequences or both. Unsurprisingly, the narrative unfurls piecemeal — creating a simulacra of her own experience as she and her family gathered fragments about her missing father-in-law. Dated journal-like entries provide the only hints about Jaballa or the scars that his family developed in his absence.

As we plunge deeper into the visual and textual narrative, the more we understand that this is not about one individual, one family, or even one community but rather an entire country — and not just a country of dissidents but of loyalists and the horror and shame that unites them.

Before we parted ways I asked Matar when she had last seen her father-in-law. She replied that she had never met him. The scars of inhumanity run deep."—Jon Evans

Purchase Book

Evidence. By Diana Matar. Schilt Publishing, 2015.
Evidence. By Diana Matar. Schilt Publishing, 2015.

Jon Evans is the Chief Librarian at the Hirsch Library at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, where he has worked for the past 24 years.

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