Women in Translation
Blog · Posted August 18, 2023
We have lots of book recommendations to celebrate WIT month.
August is Women in Translation Month and we are here to celebrate it! What began as a project to try and tackle the disproportionate representation in translated literature, has now become an annual celebration of women writers from all across the globe. Championing and encouraging women from all languages and walks of life, the month of August has helped shine a spotlight on their work and the questions that they raise.
The beauty of reading is that it allows us to travel unimaginable distances without ever leaving our homes. To read is to transport oneself and translated works provide an endless array of experiences and stories to choose from. Sadly, less than 31% of all translated works are by female authors and the ones who are translated are far less likely to win prizes (and recognition) than their male counterparts.
If you have not read any women in translation before, now is a great time to start. We hope that our bookseller reviews below help you to begin your journey into the world of women in translation and provide reading inspiration for August and beyond…
By detailing the life of all those who exist and orbit around a rural Pyrenees village, Sola has created an incredibly sensory and evocative polyphonic novel. The ever-changing narrator – from thunderstorms and mushrooms to the townspeople and their pets – paired with the constant first person narrative, allows you to immerse yourself fully in her world. This stunning novel evolves with its reader a each chapter provides a different point of view on a shared history. The poetic descriptions of human and non-human life leave you with an incredible admiration for the interconnectedness of our world. With magical realism and a lyrical tenderness, When I Sing, Mountains Dance manages to document both moments of comfort and of sadness.
As three friends/lovers navigate their way through university and are introduced to the politics of wealth and morality, we see both the peaks and troughs of the intimacy that they create with one another. When Hugo is visited by the daughter of friends from a former life, he starts looking back to the past and grapples with the paths not taken. Beginning at the end, and split into three parts – one now, one then and one in between – this novel teases out feelings of nostalgia with each page. From Stockholm, Berlin, Paris and New York, the trio can’t run away from the feelings they experienced in their twenties. However, can they come to terms with moving on when the time comes to say goodbye to that chapter of their lives? This debut novel is a great one to pick up for fans of Sally Rooney.
In three different chapters, we see three women contend with motherhood and struggles with fertility. The twist is that the only account we are provided with is through the eyes of a male narrator. The whole story teeters on the edge of bizarre surrealism and it creates an almost dreamlike sensation. Oyamada does a phenomenal job of forcing the reader to read between the lines and see that the women may not be as happy as they appear. Much like weasels in the attic (more of a Japanese problem?) we see that the expectations and pressures of motherhood imposed upon women can be a burden. This is a very easy read to dip your toe into the waters of Japanese fiction.
Lucie Bryon’s bubbly art style has a subtlety that keeps it detailed but uncluttered; and she employs a level of energetic imagery that I’ve not seen in years – when Ella feels a flood of emotion, the room literally fills with water. Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper and Tillie Walden’s On A Sunbeam have led queer fiction to become the dominating genre of graphic novels, but Thieves is the first to make me laugh consistently. The characters each have cartoon qualities and, equally, serious flaws; in 200 pages Bryon gives them just as much charm and depth as 200 pages of prose. This is a book that reminds you to take risks, make memories, and remember the people that stand beside you, and it’s one I know I’ll keep rereading.
A memoir and self-help book that challenges us to look at mental health in a different way. Seehee is very open about her own flaws and is blunt in the way she presents them. Mostly written in an interview format, she transcribes her own therapy sessions. In doing so, she shows the confusion that goes hand-in-hand with mental illness. People often place therapy on a pedestal, believing that it is all-healing and every word said needs to be insightful for it to be worth it. However, Seehee shows it for what it is: just talking and letting our inner thoughts out. It serves as a reminder that we all need someone to talk to, even if we don’t know what we want to say or how to say it. Short and easy to inhale, this is a comforting read for someone who may be struggling or needs reassurance that they are not the only ones to feel the way that they do.
In this short book, Fernandez tells some of her own story, her mother’s and the one of the complex nation she calls home. It makes you question what is at risk when we forget and things slip away into the black holes in our minds. Expertly crafted to weave astrology, astronomy, history, politics and personal stories into one moving memoir, Fernandez looks at the power of remembrance and fragility of memory. However, above all, Voyager reminds us to ensure that crimes, violence and names from the past are not lost in the archives to avoid history repeating itself.
I Will Write to Avenge my People: The Nobel Lecture by Annie Ernaux, translated by Alison L. Strayer & Sophie Lewis
Reading the Nobel lecture by Annie Ernaux gives you an insight into the mind of an incredible writer. If you have read any of Ernaux’s other works, I would highly recommend giving this (very) short text a read. It wil elevate your experience and appreciation of her writing. It is a brilliant reminder that writers, whether they write fiction, non-fiction or picture books, all make their mark in history, providing others from different periods and cultures with an understanding of that moment in time.
Morris and the Magic of Stories by Didier Lévy and illus. by Lorenzo Sangiò, translated by Jill Phythian
Morris has thought of a cunning plan to lure unsuspecting mice for his dinner…read them books! But can you eat mice who laugh and cry with you through shared stories?
Adorable characters are hand-drawn by Sangiò in this sweet story with little tidbits for adults too. Featuring books, warm pastries and unlikely friendships.
Arthur has graduated from the School of Perfect Porters and works at Hotel Didadoum with pride. Until one day Mike the cat arrives and causes no end of havoc. Can Arthur keep his loyal residents happy for much longer?
This large format picture book has bright, crisp illustrations with lots of small details to spot. A distinctly European feel makes this a great read for the summer.
Whether adult or child, everyone needs this book. A starling decides to sing a song about blossom blowing in the wind and breezes from faraway seas. All the other birds make sure he doesn’t forget to include other things to be grateful for too.
Provides an inspiring and beautiful outlook on life and a reminder to slow down and look around you. Wonderful, lino-cut illustrations make this a pleasure for the eyes as well as the soul.
Part guidebook, part memoir, this may not seem like an obvious choice for a picture book. That being said, Elena Bulay presents her guide with charming illustrations, quick and simple top tips, and mature messages delivered in easy-to-understand ways for dogs of all shapes, sizes, ages and situations. It’s like a Haynes manual about dogs for children.
Sprinkled with stories from her life with her own rescue dog, Jo, she supports her facts with experience, humour and plenty of heartwarming adventures.
You can find more recommendations and works by Women in Translation over on our Bookshop.org shop HERE.