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It’s Women in Translation Month: 5 Recommendations

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Rebecca Hussey


Rebecca holds a PhD in English and is a professor at Norwalk Community College in Connecticut. She teaches courses in composition, literature, and the arts. When she’s not reading or grading papers, she’s hanging out with her husband and son and/or riding her bike and/or buying books. She can't get enough of reading and writing about books, so she writes the bookish newsletter "Reading Indie," focusing on small press books and translations. Newsletter: Reading Indie Twitter: @ofbooksandbikes

Did you know August is Women in Translation month? To celebrate, I’m recommending five books by women from around the world. Each book was published in the last couple years, and each combines a fascinating story with a depth and thoughtfulness that will keep you thinking long after you have finished it. Check them out, and then tell me who your favorite women writers in translation are!

Waiting for Tomorrow Nathacha Appanah coverWaiting for Tomorrow by Nathacha Appanah, Translated by Geoffrey Strachan

This novel opens with a woman, Anita, thinking about her husband, Adam, in prison. She is enduring a long wait for him to be released. From that point on, we’re also waiting to find out what has turned their lives upside down. Anita is from the island of Mauritius and Adam is from the French countryside. They meet in Paris, marry, and move back to Adam’s hometown to establish a life there and raise their daughter. The novel follows them through many years as they change and grow and welcome a new person into their lives, Adèle, another woman from Mauritius whom they hire to help take care of their daughter. Her presence sparks an artistic renewal in both of them, but also sends their lives in a wholly unexpected direction. Waiting for Tomorrow is beautifully written, suspenseful, and will fill you with a delicious dread. It’s full of insight into artistic ambition, cultural identity, motherhood, marriage and so much more. (France)

Eventide Therese Bohman coverEventide by Therese Bohman, Translated by Marlaine Delargy

Eventide is perfect for those who love academic novels. It’s the story of Karolina Andersson, an art professor in Stockholm who finds herself newly single in her early 40s. She has focused on her career so far, but now finds herself at loose ends, unsure of what to make of her personal life and career. She drinks a lot, enjoys affairs, thinks about past relationships, mulls new research projects, and spends time online. As often happens in academic novels, an attractive student walks into the professor’s life and complicates everything, in ways you will expect and in ways you won’t. I loved Bohman’s exploration of what it’s like to be a female academic and a woman coming face-to-face with the end of her fertility in modern society where this both matters and doesn’t. This is a heady, philosophical novel that’s also moving and absorbing. (Sweden)

In the Distance With You coverIn the Distance with You by Carla Guelfenbein, Translated by John Cullen

Carla Guelfenbein is a Chilean author and this book takes place in Chile and various places throughout Europe. It’s inspired by Clarice Lispector and is about a Lispector-like author named Vera Sigall, who spends the novel in a hospital room while three other characters who knew her in various ways tell their stories. It’s about writing and writerly relationships, about literary lineages, about the way the past bears down on the present, and about the pressures the world places on the body. It’s labeled a literary thriller, although the pace is slower than that leads one to expect. But there are plot revelations along the way that keep things moving, and the ideas about the writing life and the creative process were engaging. The distances covered and the time frame—from the 1950s through today—make this a novel rich in history as well as full of complex characters and ideas. (Chile)

Convenience-store-woman-by-sayaka-murata-coverConvenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, Translated by Ginny tapley Takemori

Keiko has worked at a convenience store for 18 years, long past the time everyone else thinks she should have moved on. But she’s happy there. The job suits her: it’s structured, predictable, and meaningful. Keiko has always had trouble fitting in; she struggles to understand other people’s motivations and people struggle to understand her complete lack of interest in marriage or career advancement. She frequently finds herself in awkward conversations. But she’s happy with her work and her structured life. The problem is that people won’t accept the life she’s created for herself. And then a new employee walks in and disrupts everything. This is a short novel, but it packs in so much: it has a fascinating main character, a sharply-realized setting, and a complex exploration of the consequences of social pressure. (Japan)

Iliac Crest Cristina Rivera Garza coverThe Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera Garza, Translated by Sarah Booker

This is a book for those who love unsettling stories, the kind where you’re not quite sure what’s going on and are compelled to read on to figure it out. The book begins with two women showing up unexpectedly at the narrator’s house, one of them an ex-lover and the other claiming to be the famous writer Amparo Dávila. They take up residence in the house, one of them nursing the other back to health, and send the narrator into a tailspin. The story starts on a rainy night and maintains that dark and eerie mood throughout. It’s a mysterious, gender-bending look at what happens when one’s identity begins to fall apart. (Mexico)

Want more books in translation? Check out these 50 Must-Read Modern Classics in Translation, 100 Must-Read Classics in Translation, and even more posts on books in translation.