August is Women In Translation Month, which is when we celebrate the literary efforts of women around the world whose works have been translated into English. You might be wondering why this is important.
According to the Three Percent Translation Database, books by women make up 28.7% of the 4,849 books published during the decade 2008-2018 (including projected titles). You’ll find breakdowns by language, country, and publisher on the Three Percent blog.
If women only made up 30% of authors, or if their works were simply “not as good” as those penned by their male counterparts, that would be one thing. Unfortunately, this really is more of an indicator of societal forces continuing to amplify male voices and male stories at the expense of women’s.
I appreciate the sentiment expressed by Natalie Kon-yu here:
Anyone who argues that good work will always be published and valued is not paying attention to the way in which our literary culture dismisses, maligns, or limits the work of anyone deemed to be other to the white male writer.
~Natalie Kon-yu, cited on the English Pen
If you’re curious about the origins of WiT Month, you can read a brief history on Tranlationista.
Would you like to participate? M. Lynx Qualey wrote a terrific participation guide on Book Riot. Here are a few ideas:
- Please tweet about your reads with the hashtags #WomenInTranslation and #WITMonth. Follow @Read_WIT.
- Ask libraries and book groups to include books by women in translation.
- Review works by women in translation to give them a marketing bump.
I’m really digging the list of 31 books to read now on Words Without Borders. I’ve read–and LOVED–The Elegance of a Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery and translated by Alison Anderson. You can read my review here.
I’ve added The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz and translated by Elisabeth Jaquette to my TBR list. It sounds like a particularly disturbing dystopian novel:
This English PEN Translates Award-winning novel The Queue is set in an unnamed city where a centralized authority known as the Gate has taken power in the aftermath of a failed popular uprising. Citizens are required to obtain permission from the Gate for even the most basic of their daily affairs, yet the building never opens, and the queue in front of it grows longer and longer.
I swear I’ve had nightmares of something like that happening…if you’ve ever been to the DMV, I’m sure you can relate!
For something completely different, I’m going to throw in a graphic novel by Kanata Konami called Chi’s Sweet Home. The book was originally written in Japanese and it was translated by Ed Chavez.
Do I really need to explain what attracts me to that book? LOOK AT THAT CUTE FACE.
But if you must know what it’s about, here’s the Goodreads summary:
Chi is a michievous newborn kitten who, while on a leisurely stroll with her family, finds herself lost. Seperated from the warmth and protection of her mother, feels distraught. Overcome with loneliness she breaks into tears in a large urban park meadow., when she is suddenly rescued by a young boy named Yohei and his mother. The kitty is then quickly and quietly whisked away into the warm and inviting Yamada family apartment…where pets are strictly not permitted.