Women in Translation Month: top books to celebrate global writers

Women in Translation Month: top books to celebrate global writers

by Suswati Basu
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Women in Translation Month books

Women in Translation Month (WiT Month) is an annual literary initiative that takes place during the month of August. It was founded by Meytal Radzinski in 2014 to highlight and celebrate the work of women authors and translators. The goal of Women in Translation Month is to raise awareness about the underrepresentation of women writers in the literary world, especially in translated literature, and to encourage readers, publishers, and translators to engage with and promote more women-authored and women-translated books.

What is Women in Translation Month?

Throughout the month of August, readers are encouraged to read, share, and discuss books written by women authors and translated into various languages. This initiative aims to break down cultural and language barriers, promote diverse voices, and provide greater visibility to women authors and translators from around the world. It’s a platform that helps readers discover new perspectives and stories while also addressing the gender imbalance that has historically existed in the publishing and translation industries.

Events and discussions often take place online through social media, book clubs, literary organisations, and individual readers sharing their reading recommendations and experiences. The initiative has gained traction over the years and has contributed to the growing awareness and appreciation of women’s contributions to world literature.

On an international scale, a mere 36% of books finding their way into English translation stem from non-European nations, exposing a stark bias in the literary landscape. Delving into the intersectional realm, the figures reveal an even more disconcerting truth: a mere fraction—less than 31%—of translations into English bear the authorial signature of women, signalling a substantial gender disparity that persists within the realm of translation.

In a statement on the Women in Translation website, they state that “women women from all over the world deserve to have equal opportunities when it comes to literary recognition.”

“We as readers deserve to have access to stories that truly reflect the vastness of the world in which we live, through different lenses shaped by language, culture, and experience.”

Women in Translation

#WomenInTranslation to lead change

The #womenintranslation initiative stands as a global and inclusive endeavour, underpinned by the fundamental belief in amplifying the voices of all women* (inclusive of transgender, nonbinary, and intersex individuals). This undertaking remains steadfast in its commitment to providing a platform for women hailing from every corner of the world, representing diverse languages, faiths, ethnicities, cultures, sexual orientations, marginalised gender identities, physical abilities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and age groups.

Driven by the striking gender disparity prevalent in non-English literary landscapes, this mission zeroes in on literary works produced by women* across all languages other than English, irrespective of the language in which the work is consumed or debated. As a result, the project steadfastly refuses to discriminate based on literary genres or classifications, instead striving to throw open as many doors as possible to cater to the tastes of all readers.

Inclusive to readers from all linguistic backgrounds and nations, the initiative also aspires to contribute to the creation of a more enlightened world as we unite in our collective efforts.

Top books to read for Women in Translation 2023:

Here are some of the top women in translation books to read in 2023. These books were released between September 2022 to August 2023 and feature on this year’s list, which was compiled by the founder Radzinski:

  • Barefoot Doctor by Can Xue, translated by Karen Gernant and Zeping Chen. A profound, poignant story of a village healer and her community, from one of the world’s great contemporary novelists. (China)
  • Look at the Lights, My Love by Annie Ernaux, translated by Alison L. Strayer. A revelatory meditation on class and consumer culture, from 2022 Nobel laureate Ernaux. (France)
  • As We Exist: A Postcolonial Autobiography by Kaoutar Harchi, translated by Emma Ramadan. A powerful and moving coming-of-age memoir from a Mauritian-born writer about growing up in a mixed-race family and coming to terms with her identity. (France)
  • A Little Luck by Claudia Piñeiro, translated by Frances Riddle. A Little Luck is the story about the debilitating weight of lies, the messy line between bravery and cowardice, and the tragedies, big and small. (Argentina)
  • This Is Not Miami by Fernanda Melchor, translated by Sophie Hughes. A collection of devastating short stories that explore the lives of women in contemporary Latin America. (Mexico)
Read: Bulgarian first to win International Booker Prize
  • Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez, translated by Megan McDowell. A collection of dark and disturbing stories that explore the underside of Argentine society. (Argentina)
  • Urgent Matters by Paula Rodriguez, translated by Sarah Moses. A literary noir that follows the story of a criminal who survives a train crash, which kills 43 other. (Argentina)
  • Suddenly by Isabelle Autissier, translated by Gretchen Schmid. A gripping story of survival set against the stark backdrop of the Antarctic Ocean, where a couple shipwrecked on an island must trust each other with their lives. (France)
  • Abyss by Pilar Quintana, translated by Lisa Dillman. In Abyss, the author leads us brilliantly into the lonely heart of the child we have all once been, driven by fear of abandonment. (Colombia)
  • My Husband by Maud Ventura, translated by Emma Ramadan. In this suspenseful and darkly funny debut novel, a sophisticated French woman spends her life obsessing over her perfect husband. (France)

Other works of note

Here are some suggestions from Joseph Schreiber. He is the former Criticism/Nonfiction Editor at 3:AM Magazine on his blog roughghosts. These are currently on this year’s list:

  • Eastbound by Maylis de Kerangal, translated by Jessica Moore. A novella about a young Russian conscript who deserts from the army. He then embarks on a journey across Siberia with an older French woman. The novel explores themes of freedom, identity, and the natural world. (French)
  • Rombo by Esther Kinsky, translated by Caroline Schmidt. Seven inhabitants of a remote mountain village talk about their lives. They have been deeply impacted by the earthquake that has left marks they are slowly learning to name. (German)
  • Hospital by Sanya Rushdi, translated by Arunava Sinha. Based on real-life events and originally written in Bengali, this daring first novel unflinchingly depicts the precarity of a woman living with psychosis and her struggles with the definition of sanity in our society. (Australia/Bengali)
  • Twilight of Torment II: Heritage by Léonora Miano, translated by Gila Walker. An introspective journey, unveiling personal history amid an uncertain African societal backdrop. “Twilight of Torment” blends intimacy with political commentary. (Cameroon/French)
  • Marina Tsvetaeva: To Die in Yelabuga, by Vénus Khoury-Ghata, translated by Teresa Lavender-Fagan. A biography of the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva, who was forced to live in exile in Yelabuga, Russia, during World War II. The novel explores themes of creativity, exile, and the power of language. (Lebanese French)

Consequently, these are just a few of the many great women in translation books that are available in 2023. I hope you enjoy reading them!

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This article contains affiliate links via Bookshop.org in which we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. We support local bookshops! We have not been commissioned to review books and services.


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