This content contains affiliate links. When you purchase through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
August is Women in Translation Month! Less than 31% of books published in English translation are written by women, according to figures from the translation database started by Three Percent and Open Letter and now hosted by Weekly editors. Founded by literary blogger Meytal Radzinski and now in its ninth year, Women in Translation Month was launched to promote women writers around the world and combat this horribly low statistic. As summer rolls around every year, I wade through catalogs and read a stack of galleys and pick out some of the women in translation titles that I’m most excited about that come out in June, July and August.
With each new year, Women in Translation Month gets bigger and it’s a joy to see the bookstore displays, literary events, social media excitement, special sales and all the books released this time of year, often by small independent publishers. who make it a priority to include and increase the number of books published by women in translation. This year’s list is a fascinating mix of early novels, favorites like author Sayaka Murata and translator Ginny Tapley Takemori, short story collections, poetry and more. Translation!
Summer 2022 New from Women in Translation
summer dogs by Andrea Abreu, translated by Julia Sanches
I love summer novels. The kind that captures the sticky heat and bustle that seeps into everything. Everything is just a bit more intense in the summer. Emotions a little closer to the surface. It’s like someone forgot to turn the volume down even though the pace of the world has slowed down. Located in a popular area of the Canary Islands, near the volcano in the north of Tenerife, summer dogs is a perfect summer romance that follows two best friends as they grow up and their friendship begins to simmer with lust and violence. The writing is a mix of bachata lyrics, Canarian dialect and maiden tongue – gritty, wild, poetic – an exquisite feat of first author Andrea Abreu and renowned translator Julia Sanches.
Chinese district by Thuân, translated by Nguyen An Ly
Acclaimed Vietnamese author Thuận is a recipient of the Writers’ Union Award, the highest honor in Vietnamese literature and Chinese district is his twelfth novel, but his first to appear in English, although I doubt it will be the last. This novel is an intense and propulsive stream of consciousness through Hanoi, Leningrad and Paris as a woman recounts and tries to make sense of her life and her past. The question she turns is: is it really possible to forget in order to live? Chinese district is a rich and surprising novel of love, memory and loss.
When the night agrees to speak to me by Ananda Devi, translated by Kazim Ali
Famous Mauritian writer Ananda Devi, whom readers may know Eve out of her ruins and living days, both translated into stunningly beautiful prose by Jeffrey Zuckerman, returns with a collection of poetry, this time translated by writer, poet and translator Kazim Ali. “Let the truth leave these bodies” writes Devi in a complex and personal collection that mixes poetry and autobiography and speaks in powerful truths of desire, violence and aging. This fine bilingual collection also includes a translator’s note, a fascinating interview between Devi and Ali, and a short essay on reading Devi’s poetry by scholar Mohit Chandna.
witches by Brenda Lozano, translated by Heather Cleary
Paloma is dead. Her death reunites town reporter Zoe and Paloma’s cousin, Feliciana, a renowned indigenous curandera or healer from the mountain village of San Felipe. Together, the two women explore trauma and healing in the wake of deep-rooted societal violence against women and gender non-conforming people. Brenda Lozano is one of the most striking voices of a new generation of Latin American writers, and I am in awe of her thoughtful blending of these two stories and styles. And Heather Cleary’s pinpoint translator’s note examines the political and cultural implications of the choices translators make in their work.
bad handwriting by Sara Mesa, translated by Katie Whittemore
I loved Sara Mesa’s novel of power, privilege and violence. four by four, also translated by Katie Whittemore, and was delighted to see this new collection of short stories exploring many of the same themes. And while there was a sustained dread and tension in Mesa’s novel, these stories seem even stranger and more unsettling in everything not inherently told in a short story, every break and ending. feeling like a sudden fall into darkness. bad handwriting is also notably one of the books of the new triptych of the translator of Open Letter programin the same way wolf skin by Lara Moreno and Mothers don’t by Katixa Agirre, all translated by Whittemore. The program is designed to honor and empower literary translators by emphasizing their role in the discovery, preservation and promotion of international literature.
talk to my back by Yamada Murasaki, translated by Ryan Holmberg
Drawn & Quarterly has the most fantastic offerings of translated literature and so I was thrilled to hear about this first English translation of Yamada Murasaki’s groundbreaking alt manga. talk to my back. The comics were originally serialized in the influential magazine Garo from 1981 to 1984, when few women created alternative manga. Yamada details the inner lives of the women in the collection, addressing domesticity, femininity and the failures of the nuclear family in surprisingly fresh and poignant observations. I am grateful to translator Ryan Holmberg and the publisher for bringing this book and the critically acclaimed book by Kuniko Tsurita The sky is blue with a single cloud to readers who can now appreciate the work of never-before-seen women in the alt-manga scene.
Where dogs bark with their tails by Estelle-Sarah Bulle, translated by Julia Grawemeyer
Where the dogs bark with their tales is a breathtaking novel that is both the story of a family and a great epic of Guadeloupe and its diaspora that crosses decades and oceans. I can’t stop thinking about the characters in the novel since I finished it – each one is written so intimately and vividly, especially the matriarch Antoine. And while there’s a lot of hard stuff to read here, as Guadeloupe’s history is marked by colonialism and capitalism and we watch this family search and struggle to find their way in the world, this is a powerful and compelling novel by first author Estelle-Sarah Bulle and brilliantly translated by Julia Grawemeyer.
Ceremony of Life: Stories by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori
Sayaka Murata is widely admired for her news in Japan, so it’s exciting to see ceremony of life, Murata’s first collection of short stories available in English, will be released this summer in another striking translation by Ginny Tapley Takemori. In the same vein as Woman convenience store and earthlings, this bizarre, seductive and unconventional collection takes a close look at societal expectations and pressures to conform to dizzying effect. His characters are often outcasts and loners, or they exist just on the edge of cultural norms and traditions, and Murata, with humor and panache, uncovers startling truths about relationships, belonging, individuality, and ultimately, the nature of mankind.
For more great reads by women in translation, check out this list of 50 must-read books by women in translation.