In Translation

10 Books to Check Out for Women in Translation Month

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Teresa Preston

Staff Writer

Since 2008, Teresa Preston has been blogging about all the books she reads at Shelf Love. She supports her book habit by working as a magazine editor at a professional association in the Washington, DC, area, which is (in)conveniently located just a few steps from a used bookstore. When she’s not reading or editing, she’s likely to be attending theatre, practicing yoga, watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer again, or doting on her toothless orange cat, Anya. Twitter: @teresareads

August is Women in Translation Month, an event founded by Meytal Radzinski to raise awareness of books by women that have been translated into English. Throughout the month, readers are encouraged to read and recommend translated books by women using the hashtag #WITmonth.

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Want to join the celebration but aren’t sure what to read? I’m here to help! These 10 books are just a small sampling of the many great reads out there.

  1. Eep! by Joke van Leeuwen and translated from Dutch by Bill Nagelkerke. This children’s book about a couple who suddenly find themselves adopting a bird-girl is filled whimsical illustrations by the author.
  2. Half a Lifelong Romance by Eileen Chang and translated from Chinese by Karen Kingsbury. This love story from the 1940s follows a young Chinese couple from their early courtship and through long years of waiting and the tragic complications that ensue.
  3. The Murder Farm by Andrea Maria Schenkel and translated from German by Anthea Bell. Schenkel took her inspiration for this book from the unsolved Hinterkaifeck murders from the 1920s in which six people were found dead on a rural farm.
  4. Paradise of the Blind by Duong Thu Huong and translated from Vietnamese by Phan Huy Duong and Nina McPherson. The first book from Vietnam to be published in the U.S., this novel tells the story of the women who weren’t directly involved in the Vietnam War but who had to deal with the consequences.
  5. Resistance: A Frenchwoman’s Journal of the War by Agnes Humbert and translated from French by Barbara Mellor. Humbert was an art historian in her 40s when the Germans invaded France. She tells the story of her resistance work and eventual imprisonment in this journal/memoir.
  6. So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ and translated from French by Modupé Bodé-Thomas. This semi-autobiographical epistolary novel chronicles the life of a recently widowed Senegalese woman.
  7. The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli and translated from Spanish by Christina MacSweeney. Luiselli wrote this novel about the auctioneer and fabulist Gustavo Sánchez Sánchez with the help of a group of workers at a juice factory in Mexico.
  8. The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu and translated from Japanese by Royall Tyler (among others). This book from the 11th century is often referred to as the world’s first novel. It’s the story of the self-absorbed and irresponsible son of a Japanese emperor.
  9. The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist and translated from Swedish by Marlaine Delargy. This dystopian novel features a society in which childless women over 50 and men over 60 are given a comfortable home in luxurious surroundings while their organs are gradually harvested.
  10. Zorro by Isabel Allende and translated from Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden. Allende offers an origin story for the legendary hero that takes him from California in the 1790s to Spain and back again.

Want more? Try fellow rioter Rachel’s post from last year, and read the official posts at Biblibio for reviews, links, and discussion posts.