August is women in translation month and it fast became one of my favorite months to join in with various reading initiatives across bookish social media when I first joined booktube. It has also made me more conscious about the work translators do, and the importance of finding time to read books written by women in translation.
Meytal (on booktube as @Biblibio and creator of the #WITMonth / @readwit on Instagram) is running an international project to list the top 100 books by women in translation. She is inviting ANYONE to submit their top 10 books, and you can find out about all the way you can do so in her video here. Basically as long as you get nominations to Meytal in some form before 25 August 2019 they will count! In no particular order, here are my 10 nominations:
1.The Mirror Visitor Quarter by Christelle Dabos (translated from French by Hildegarde Serle).
If I had to pick just one title from this YA fantasy series, it would be the second in the series, The Missing of Clairdelune. This series is set in a world made up of arks where the characters belong to family groups marked by their unique “powers.” We are following the adventures of Ophelia, who can read objects and travel short distances through mirrors – and the narrative focuses on her betrothal and move to another ark, and navigating the social structures there. This is an exciting plot, compellingly written, and with a world that is so cleverly created and imaginative! These are also now available as audiobooks which is exciting. Watch me speak about this series more here.
2. The Door by Magda Szabo (translated from Hungarian by Len Rix)
This narrative follows a writer and her elderly cleaning lady, Emerence. Their relationship is anything but traditional and full of sass and snark, it was a wickedly funny read overshadowed by some dark themes around loneliness and the maintenance of one’s inner self. I also listened to this one as an audiobook and highly recommend the narration of Sian Thomas.
3. Disoriental by Negar Djavadi (translated from French by Tina Kover)
This is an exciting title that combines a sweeping family history and the journey from Iran during the Revolution, to a new life in Paris. It also examines gender and sexual identity within the language and imagery of alchemy, a stunning read that I would highly recommend to readers.
4. Farewell, My Orange by Iwaki Kei (translated from Japanese by Meredith McKinney)
For an Australian choice, you cannot go past this impactful read. This is deeply character driven and focuses on the experiences and friendship of two women newly arrived in Australia, and learning English alongside navigating language barriers, racism, and social expectations. It speaks to the retention of agency in the women’s narratives, and was an incredibly moving read.
5. The Court Dancer by Kyung-Sook Shin (translated from Korean by Anton Hur)
This historical fictions spans Korea and France, capturing the politics and culture of the period, including the influences of China and Japan on Korea. The character development is complex and immersed within a deftly woven plot, I adored this book! Also another great choice to listen to via audiobook.
6. Strike Your Heart by Amelie Nothomb (translated from French by Alison Anderson)
This incredibly short narrative packs a punch and walks the reader through the narrator’s complex relationships with the women in her life. The prose is delightful and the narrative had me entranced from page one!
7. The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yogo Ogawa (translated from Japanese by Stephen Snyder)
Having read other titles by Ogawa, this still remains my favorite! It is sweet and charming, a story of love and memory without any sexualization of the primary relationship. If you’re into darker, dystopian reads, I also enjoyed her recent release The Memory Police which is examining memory from a different angle. Revenge is high on my TBR and continues to get recommended to me by fans of her writing.
8. The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zeran (translated from Spanish by Sophie Hughes)
This was a recent read of mine, and one I keep thinking about since finishing. We are following the perspectives of two friends living with the legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship and how this impacts the first generation following its fall. Structurally, this is also one of the most fascinating books I’ve read this year – the way that point of view and language shift as the perspectives change, the use of chapter headings, all work to contribute to a meaning beyond the words expressly on the page.
9. Bright by Duanwad Pimwana (translated from Thai by Mui Poopoksakul)
This is an exciting release as the first novel to appear in English by a Thai woman! Told in a series of vignettes, we follow a young boy that has been abandoned by his family who is taken in and cared for by his entire community in response. It is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, and one I highly recommend.
10. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (translated from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori)
This remains one of my favorite audiobooks, and one that I flew through in one sitting. It is a short and quirky novel using the routine and obsessions of Keiko to explore in a darkly comedic way the pressures of social expectations and impact of these on a life. Really fascinating and unique narrative.
I’m participating in #WITMonth in a number of ways and prioritizing reading books by women in translation this month. I thought I’d share them here in case any of you would also like to join in. Kendra and Matthew are hosting a weeklong redathon #WITReadathon over on booktube, and Aussie reader Tamsien of Babbling Books is hosting a series of giveaways and bingo board challenges over on her instagram @babbling_books_ / #readwithBB.
If you’d like to support Six Minutes For Me please considering purchasing these titles through Book Depository using my affiliate link. You can also support by purchasing your audiobooks from libro.fm (and support indie bookstores at the same time!) using my affiliate link, including the code SIXMINS which gets you 3-for-1 audiobooks when you sign up. Some of these titles were provided as review copies by the publisher, all views remain my own.