Saturday, July 28, 2018

Recommended Reads for Women in Translation Month

It's been a while since I've done a Reading Envy Recommends post! (Previous posts include:
August is Women in Translation month, and honestly I don't know where that started. (If you know, please tell me as I hate not crediting someone with a good idea.)
ETA: Thanks to Tony Messenger (@messy_tony) in Twitter, I now know that it is Meytal from the Bibliobio blog who originated #WIT month. All hail! You may read an FAQ about Women in Translation Month over on her blog.

I will recommend titles for Women in Translation Month in three parts. Part 1 is the double dip, where both the author and translator are women. Part 2 is titles written by women but translated by men. Part 3 is titles I have on my TBR, so I'm not sure if I recommend them, but they were definitely books recommended to me or seemed to be books I'd like.

This isn't a comprehensive list by any means, and isn't even a list of all books that qualify that I've read. These are books I recommend from those smaller groups. 

Part 1: Double Dip (Written and Translated by Women)
  1. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori
    Quirky character living a small life. A quick and recent read!
  2. August by Romina Paula, translated by Jennifer Croft
    I was most impressed by the believable youthful protagonist as she processes a return home and the death of a friend.
  3. Swallowing Mercury by Wjoletta Greg (Grzegorzewska), translated by Eliza Marciniak
    Short stories of a Polish childhood, vivid and strong incorporation of folk story and belief.
  4. Suite for Barbara Loden by Nathalie Léger, translated by Natasha Lehrer and Cécile Menon
    It's about feminism, women in film, the male gaze, and feels like non-fiction in its stylings.
  5. Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz, translated by Sarah Moses and Carolina Orloff
    A perfect capture of the infinite loneliness of motherhood. As disturbing as it should be. Longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2018.
  6. The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz, translated by Elisabeth Jaquette
    A dystopian novel from an Arab spring perspective (actually predates those events, if I remember correctly.)
  7. The Vegetarian by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith
    Kang and Smith have worked on several books together but this is still my favorite. I feel like it's more subversive than it's given credit for, and that Kang is saying very important things about the expectations of women in Korean society. Plus it's bizarre and full of weirdness.
  8. Our Lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga, translated by Melanie L. Mauthner
    A novel about a girls school on the brink of what would be the Rwandan genocide. Mukasonga has a memoir about the massacre called Cockroaches, which I would recommend, but this one is slightly less devastating.
  9. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein
    All the novels in the Neapolitan set are probably worth it, but I've only read 1 and 2 so far. I love the gritty tale of girlhood in this one, set in post-war Naples.

Part 2: Female author, male translator
  1. Body Music by Julie Maroh, translated by David Homel
    A graphic novel set in Montreal, about relationships and layers of intimacy.
  2. Land of Love and Ruins by Oddny Eir, translated by Philip Roughton
    Autobiographical novel told in journal entries, about nature and the self. This was a five-star read for me!
  3. The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal, translated by Sam Taylor
    A boy dies and his heart goes to someone else. The novel examines all the little lives connected to his, with beautiful writing and wonderful introspection.
  4. Eve Out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi, translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman
    A difficult yet compelling read about four teens living in abject poverty in Mauritius. The writing is incredible, so the translation must be.
  5. Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea by Teffi, translated by Robert Chandler et al
    Vivid writing about a place that no longer exists, Russia on the brink of revolution, written by a well known woman who had to flee and never went back.
  6. The First Wife: A Tale of Polygamy by Paulina Chiziane, translated by David Brookshaw
    The first novel from a female author in Mozambique, and also the first to be translated into English. A woman finds out her husband has taken another wife, and hijinks ensue. I will be eternally disappointed that my book club never voted for this book!

Part 3: On my TBR
  1.  Flights by Olga Tokarzcuk, translated by Jennifer Croft
    This won the Man Booker International Prize for 2018 but doesn't come out in the USA until 2019. I think I have a review copy, but the translator is the same for one of my favorite women in translation titles (August, in first list above.)
  2. Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Susan Bernofsky
    I actually started this before going on vacation, didn't bring it with me, and I need to rediscover it in my stacks.
  3. The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-mi Hwang, translated by Chi-Young Kim
    This was recommended by my friend Lauren, whose reading tastes I never doubt!
  4. Penance by Kanae Minato, translated by Philip Gabriel
    I want to know if psychological thrillers translate!
  5. The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
    I always had an interest in this book based on the subject alone, but Pevear and Volokhonsky usually translate massive Russian novels to great success, so their work makes me interested.
  6. A Spare Life by Lidija Dimkovska, translated by Christina E. Kramer
    I've had this on my physical TBR shelf for at least a year, from when I subscribed to the Malaprops Paperback First service. I should probably give it a try.
  7. Trysting by Emmanuelle Pagano, translated by Jennifer Higgins and Sophie Lewis
    Two Lines Press had a sale, and I bought books that would double dip in female authors and translators.
  8. A Working Woman by Elvira Navarro, translated by Christina MacSweeney
    Two Lines Press had a sale, and I bought books that would double dip in female authors and translators. 
  9. The Lonesome Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya, translated by Asa Yoneda
    I have a review copy of this book of short stories which comes out in November.
  10. Wanderer by Sarah Leon, translated by John Cullen
    Another review copy for a music-themed novel that comes out January 2019.
  So I have some reading to do. How about you? Will you be reading anything for Women in Translation month?


  1. Hi Jenny! It’s me serasera7598 from Instagram :). I just saw on the blog that the blog’s owner Meytal Radzinski started it. Found her blog after she commented on my instagram WIT post. She has some interesting posts on her blog

    1. Thank you! Sorry for the incredible delay, I found some comments I didn't realize I needed to moderate. Phew. I think someone else found me and told me this in Twitter as well so I edited to add that info above, and even tweeted her when I reposted. But I appreciate you letting me know! You were probably first and I just didn't see it!


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