August is Women in Translation Month! Roughly 30% of books published in English translation are written by women, according to numbers pulled from the translation database begun by Three Percent and Open Letter and now hosted by Publishers Weekly. Founded by literary blogger Meytal Radzinski, Women in Translation Month was started to promote women writers from around the world and combat this dreadfully low statistic. Looking for books to start your #WITMonth reading? Here are some amazing books I’m reading this August.
A raw, heartrending novel of grief, loss, and returning home. A young woman, Emilia, returns to her rural hometown in Patagonia to scatter the ashes of her best friend who died by suicide five years earlier. Written as if to her best friend, August is a nostalgic, complicated, and poignant confessional. Emilia is baring her soul—but for any reader who has also left home, she feels dangerously close to baring ours too. Kirkus Reviews describes it: “Paula’s English-language debut is almost impossible to put down: moody, atmospheric, at times cinematic, her novel is indicative of a fresh and fiery talent with, hopefully, more to come.”
From an exciting new voice in modern Russian literature, Bride and Groom is a complex and layered love story about two young people living in Dagestan. Alisa Ganieva’s English debut The Mountain and the Wall was met with stunning praise and excitement and Bride and Groom continues the trend. While exploring themes of love and fate, familial and cultural expectations, and the sway of tradition, Bride and Groom also deals directly with Dagestan’s “internal conflicts with Islamic radicalization in the aftermath of its Soviet past.” That all might sound a little heavy for a love story, but Ganieva’s writing is always surprising—witty, folkloric, thoughtful, compelling—and I can’t recommend Bride and Groom enough.
Winner of the Prix du libraires du Québec, Suzanne is a fictionalized account of the life of the author’s maternal grandmother. Author and director Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette never knew her mother’s mother, a painter and poet who abandoned her husband and young family and was associated with Les Automatistes, a movement of dissident artists. She hired a private detective to piece together Suzanne’s life—and what a life it was! “From Montreal to New York to Brussels, from lover to lover, through an abortion, alcoholism, Buddhism, and an asylum. It takes readers through the Great Depression, Québec’s Quiet Revolution, women’s liberation, and the American civil rights movement, offering a portrait of a volatile, fascinating woman on the margins of history.” I’m just starting Suzanne and it’s a beautifully written and striking examination of artistry, motherhood, and family.
Delightfully charming and thoughtful, this novel from award-winning Japanese author Shion Miura is the perfect feel-good read for lovers of language. Kohei Araki believes that “a dictionary is a boat to carry us across the sea of words” and he has been lovingly crafting dictionaries for thirty-seven years. But it’s time to retire and find his replacement—enter Mitsuya Majime, a young and eccentric book lover. Majime sets off on his new task and along the way he learns about words like love, friendship, and passion. With shifts in narrative and asides that focus on the meaning of particular words, The Great Passage is a stylistically interesting and endlessly sweet novel.
This post was originally published on Book Riot.