Women In Translation: A Book List
Welcome to August –– or as it’s designated in my bullet journal, #WITMonth! Women In Translation Month is a relatively new term, started in 2014 by translator Meytal Radzinski to share the fairly dismal statistics around the percentage of female-authored books translated into English (read a great interview with her here). Folks have caught on more and more every year, with bloggers, bookstores, and publishers jumping on the bandwagon to share their favorites.
Anyone who’s come into the store to chat with me about books knows this: that translated books by female writers (and/or translators) are my JAM. However, I know we can all be a little more introspective about how many translated books by women we read… And how many books by women, period. I consider WIT Month to be a great launching point for me to do a little more digging –– how many indigenous authors am I reading? How many queer and trans authors? Black authors? –– and I hope you will, too. In the meantime, take a look at a few releases from the past year I’ve been loving.
Little Beast is a singular, beautiful novella; its protagonist, a girl who is hidden away by her family. She knows she is different. Her parents argue about her monstrosity. When it seems the villagers have found her out, she escapes and makes her way into the forest. This book is a fairytale, but one turned on its head in order to question agency, groupthink, and forced normalcy of female bodies.
I’m thrilled to see the English release of another Despentes book! Emma Ramadan has done so many amazing translations, and this one is no different. When one Paris twin, on the verge of musical stardom, commits suicide, the other must take her place in the world. Now alone, she takes on the role of a sexual icon, but all the while questioning what a woman is, and how she should act, to the public. Pretty Things is gritty and angry and all the things I wanted from an early-2000’s feminist novel.
Sometimes novellas take the opportunity to grapple with huge cultural ideas, and sometimes they are just marvelous vignettes of one little life. This book is the latter. This little nugget concerns a boy’s first love: the woman making sandwiches behind the counter at his local grocery store. It’s funny, it’s precious, and it’s thoughtful. The Pushkin Japanese Novellas series can’t seem to do wrong, so check out the rest of them, too.
I hope you didn’t miss Cristina Rivera Garza’s 2017 visit to Brazos for THE ILIAC CREST’s release! If you did, fear not –– this strange, dark tale is still on our shelves and continues to be a staff favorite. One stormy night, two strangers invade a man’s home and harass him endlessly, claiming to know a secret –– that he isn’t a man at all, but in fact, a woman. THE ILIAC CREST is timely and ferocious. Plus, Garza is a Houstonian! We host her again on October 1st for the release of her STUPENDOUS next book, THE TAIGA SYNDROME. Be there.
This book has had my heart for months. In a thrilling political noir, a corrupt group of politicians, led by a suave political candidate, suddenly go ablaze when the electricity shorts out. Meanwhile, the real social struggles of the area are able to come to light, thanks to a journalist and a dogged local woman: that women have been disappearing from the Poso Wells settlement without notice, and that the area’s forest reserves are being plundered by a mysterious magnate. Alemán rounds up ecoterrorism, corruption, political action, journalism, and a hefty dose of humor in this slim book. POSO WELLS is NOT to be missed. There are a few more books I simply have to mention that haven’t come out yet, but that are already on my list of top books for the year. Keep an eye out for AFTER THE WINTER, a gorgeous novel by Guadalupe Nettel that seems to exceed every standard for fiction. We host Nettel September 18, so if you are in Houston, please mark your calendars! THE NAKED WOMAN, by Armonia Somers, is coming out from Feminist Press in October. After being published in Ecuador in 1950, critics doubted the gender of its author due to the shocking content. It’s a fabulist little fever dream, feminist, biblical, bodily and strange, and definitely worth a look. THE LONESOME BODYBUILDER is a collection of short stories by Yukiko Motoya, and it’s out in November. It already has fabulous reception with the likes of Kenzaburo Oe and Hiromi Kawakami, so, hello. This is a splendid book for fans of the playful, the fabulist, and the alien. Last but not least, I am shrieking about the release of REVOLUTION SUNDAY, by Cuban author Wendy Guerra. Her main character, Cloe, explores the ins and outs of poetry, surveillance, and private/public absurdities in 2000s Cuba. Plus, it’s been translated by Achy Obejas, a marvelous author in her own right.