It’s August, and that means Women in Translation Month (#WITMonth) is finally here.
The annual celebration (which, if we’re honest, might as well just be yearlong) began in 2014 on the initiative of book blogger Meytal Radzinski. Radzinski grew up speaking English and Hebrew, and her multilingual family often encouraged her to read literature in translation. In an interview with the American Literary Translators Association in 2016, Radzinski discussed how the relative dearth of translated literature by women in English-language markets is a problem rooted in the biases of both (predominantly male) translators and publishers.
“Responsibility lies everywhere,” Radzinski said, “but ultimately I ask myself: who are the gatekeepers? Translators are definitely players in the game, but they’re ultimately not the ones setting up the pieces. Those are the publishers.”
Though problems with representation persist, the last two years have given us great cause to celebrate the work of women author-translator duos. Just a handful of highlights:
In 2018, the first National Book Award for Translated Literature was given to author Yoko Tawada and her translator Margaret Mitsutani for The Emissary. Of the ten shortlisted authors and translators, eight were women.
The 2018 International Booker Prize (then Man Booker International) was awarded to Olga Tokarczuk and translator Jennifer Croft for Flights. One year later, the same prize went to Jokha Alharthi and her translator Marilyn Booth for Celestial Bodies, the first book written by an Omani woman to be translated into English. With her win, Alharthi became the first Arabic author to receive the International Booker. Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, also made that shortlist.
Natalia Ginzburg, often considered one of the finest 20th-century Italian authors, is currently experiencing an American revival thanks in no small part to Minna Zallman Proctor and Frances Frenaye, the respective translators of Happiness, As Such and The Dry Heart.
Translation Twitter is incredibly excited for #WITMonth. Here are a few of the wide-ranging works people are excited to read this month.
Happy #WiTmonth! Currently reading this novel from Japanese writer Hiroko Oyamada, about 4 workers, uncertain in their paths and new to a strange factory, where things aren’t quite as they seem (trans. by David Boyd). Out from @NewDirections in Oct. ♀️ pic.twitter.com/eSesZ9HjgS
— Kelsey Westenberg (@klwestenberg) August 1, 2019
It’s officially Women in Translation Month! I’m so excited to share some of my favorite books, authors, and translators. Let the reading begin! #WITMonth #womenintranslation pic.twitter.com/LOZsOn7aur
— Pierce Alquist (@PierceAlquist) August 1, 2019
It has almost become a tradition for me to recommend Yoko Ogawa’s The Housekeeper and the Professor (Transl. Japanese) for #WITmonth. It is quiet, immersive and you wouldn’t notice the hours passing by. I love this unusual story of friendship and numbers. https://t.co/UCRWA1cikr
— Resh (@thebooksatchel) August 1, 2019
It’s now officially #WiTmonth in Australia aka the BEST MONTH 🎉📚
Look out for a blog soon about women writers from Asia & the Pacific – and happy reading! pic.twitter.com/MBflElOAMm
— Sophie Baggott (@sophieb30) August 1, 2019
August is #WomeninTranslation Month! This was longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize. It’s out Tuesday from @Coffee_House_. I hope to read it today because @PierceAlquist told me it’s “creepy and gorgeous,” which is smack dab in the middle of my wheelhouse. #WITMonth pic.twitter.com/xmum4FZVIO
— Liberty 📖 (@MissLiberty) August 1, 2019
For good measure, take a look through this thread of 50 women writers from around the world whose work is available in English.
There are 50 days until #WITMonth begins! And since of course recognizing #womenintranslation should not be a fixture of August alone, this thread will feature one woman writer from around the world for the next 50 days!
— #womenintranslation (@Read_WIT) June 12, 2019
Who are you excited to read?