Dark Books in Translation For Dark Winter Nights

I find that there’s nothing better for a dark winter night than a dark, strange book. Maybe it’s a thriller or a mystery, or maybe a collection of stories, but I love a good creepy book. I’ve collected here some dark books in translation for cold winter nights. All of these books are short, written by women (who better to really scare you?), and absolutely unsettling.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang, Translated by Deborah Smith

I love Man Booker International Prize–Winner The Vegetarian by Han Kang. It’s a beautiful and provocative story about a woman, Yeong-hye, who begins to have horrible nightmares—of blood and carnage—and in order to clear her mind and rid herself of these dreams she becomes a vegetarian. The story becomes one of control and power as her husband and family try to break her into submission, back into the norms of Korean society. To further emphasize her lack of control, Yeong-hye’s own story is told by others, in three parts, first by her husband, then her brother-in-law, and finally by her sister. It’s a dark, fascinating book that you won’t be able to stop thinking about it.

Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories by Mariana Enriquez, Translated by Megan McDowell 

I was blown away by this collection of dark, macabre short stories set in contemporary Argentina. They are stories of ghosts, disappearances, violence, inequality, and more and I promise that you will be haunted by them. My favorites were stories of obsession like “The Dirty Kid” in which a young professional woman discovers that a local child has been killed and mutilated, and “The Neighbor’s Courtyard,” a story of an ex-social worker who believes her neighbor has a child chained up in the backyard. The collection is reminiscent of Shirley Jackson and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Her Body and Other Parties: Stories by Carmen Maria Machado.

Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah, Translated by Sora Kim-Russell 

Nowhere to Be Found follows a nameless narrator’s search not for meaning, but for meaninglessness, in contemporary South Korea. Bae Suah’s young narrator describes her empty existence as she travels through life, barely moved by the disintegrated state of her family and her own poverty and loneliness. Translator Sora Kim-Russell describes it as “a road novel turned inside out, a story of a woman’s journey out of and into desire told as only Bae Suah could tell it.” Blurred descriptions of a life full of trivial banalities are thrown against dark, sadomasochistic sex scenes. The abrupt shifts are disorienting and unsettling and Suah breaks boundaries, constantly, between recollection and memory, facts and fiction.

Fever Dream by Samanta  Schweblin, Translated by Megan McDowell

Translated into English for the first time, Fever Dream is an eerie, absorbing novel about the “power and desperation of family.” A young woman is in a rural hospital clinic, delirious and dying. A boy named David, the son of a friend, waits by her bedside as Amanda tries to piece together how she came to be there and where her own daughter is. But there’s something wrong with David, wrong with the place Amanda finds herself, and maybe something wrong with Amanda too. The writing is tight and sparse but absolutely absorbing and you’ll find yourself racing to the end of this small but powerful book.

This post was originally published on Book Riot.

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A New National Book Award and Another Strike for The New York Times

The National Book Foundation recently announced that it will now present a fifth National Book Award category, honoring a work of fiction or nonfiction that has been translated into English and published in the U.S. The inaugural award will join the other four categories—Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature—and be presented at the 69th National Book Awards Ceremony in the fall.

The decision to create the new award was made unanimously. Executive Director Lisa Lucas states that, “We want American readers to deeply value an inclusive, big-picture point of view, and the National Book Award for Translated Literature is part of a commitment to that principle. The addition of this award lends crucial visibility to works that have the power to touch us as American readers in search of broadened perspective.”

It’s truly wonderful news and I’m thrilled to see more support and resources going toward the promotion of literature in translation.

And the New York Times covered the exciting news and totally fucked it up.

The literature in translation community is a supportive and generous one and all of the increased mainstream recognition of translated works and the category as a whole is because of the passion and hard work of writers, translators, small independent publishers, and devoted booksellers. Which is why completely ignoring the Best Translated Book Awards, an award that has been around since 2007, was started by an extension of a small independent press, Open Letter Books, and gives out $20,000 in prize money (which is double that of the new National Book Award) literally makes no sense to me. Is it shoddy journalism? Was this article just written too quickly? I don’t know. (There are some other small factual hang-ups with this article that I’m choosing to not discuss.)

But maybe the author just wanted to focus on THIS award, you say!

The author discusses other literary awards: “Other literary institutions have also made efforts to highlight works in translation. The PEN America Center has given out a translation prize to highlight international works since the 1960s. In 2015, the Booker Prize Foundation recast its international prize…”

Why does it matter?

It matters because that wonderful community built this award. It was started by a small press and so many others have contributed to its growth and success. By not including it and instead putting off this weird tone where you write things like, “…there’s still a lingering perception that translated literature doesn’t sell well in the United States” and “When other major literary awards have expanded their geographic reach, there’s occasionally been a backlash…” it just makes for a really shitty, weird, poorly researched article. I’m not expecting the Times to be a translation cheerleader, but can we have a slightly better news write-up?

Now, I interned at Open Letter, have reviewed for Three Percent, and have been a supporter of literature in translation in ways both big and small, so I understand that this matters to me in ways that it might not to others, but this is twice now (in my recent memory) that the Timesbook coverage has really missed the mark. Remember when they alienated and enraged the romance community?        

Here’s a happy ending for you though. On Twitter, Lisa Lucas put out a call for a thread to “all the amazing publishers/magazines/awards who put out/champion translated literature!” and the responses are staggering. It’s a true testament to the breadth and depth of the literature in translation community and their support of one another.

This post was originally published on Book Riot.

Spring 2018 New Releases: Food and Cookbooks

Prepare yourself for some particularly droolworthy upcoming food and cookbook releases this spring!

Sweet Potato Soul: 100 Easy Vegan Recipes for the Southern  Flavors of Smoke, Sugar, Spice, and Soul by Jenné Claiborne (February 6th)

Vegan cookbooks are so hot right now, and out of all of the amazing vegan cookbooks coming out this spring (notably: Hot for Food Vegan Comfort Classics and Vegan 100: Over 100 Incredible Recipes from Avant-Garde Vegan) I’m most interested in Sweet Potato Soul from NYC-based blogger, personal chef, and cooking instructor Jenné Claiborne. Claiborne’s food looks amazing—comforting and substantial with beautiful colors, textures, and flavors.

Fermentation Revolution: 70 Easy, Healthy Recipes for Sauerkraut, Kombucha, Kimchi and More by Sebastien Bureau and‎ David Côté (March 15th) 

Fermentation is a continuing trend in cookbooks from 2017 and I can’t get enough of it! Kimchi is a must-have in my house and I make it in 8-lb batches way more often than I’d like to admit. (I use Maangchi’s recipe for anyone interested.) Fermentation Revolution is more than just fermented vegetables, but a wide range of recipes and techniques for fermenting fruits, sugars and honeys, grains, and more.

The Modern Kitchen: Objects That Shape the Way We Cook, Eat, and Live by Tim Hayward (April 3rd)

Think about all of the objects in your kitchen, from the much-loved wooden spoon to your fancy, pastel-colored Kitchen-Aid mixer; all of these items have a story. Through 100 familiar kitchen objects, The Modern Kitchen examines notions of gender, class, and more and provides a “portrait of our domestic lives.” It might seem a little obsessive for some, but the photographs and extensive information will hit the sweet spot for the kitchen collector or food geek who loves to stroll through the aisles of Crate & Barrel or Williams Sonoma.

The Perfect Cake: Your Ultimate Guide to Classic, Modern, and Whimsical Cakes by the Editors at America’s Test Kitchen (March 27th)

It wouldn’t be a real foodie-worthy list without a book from the editors at America’s Test Kitchen, and this one takes the cake! (Sorry, not sorry) The recipes range from sheet cakes and special occasion cakes to cupcakes, cake pops, and cheesecakes.

The Measure of My Powers: A Memoir of Food, Misery, and Paris by Jackie Kai Ellis (March 6th)

The jacket copy of The Measure of My Powers likens the book to Eat, Pray, Love, H is for Hawk, and Wild. That got my attention! Jackie Kai Ellis journeys to France, Italy, and the Congo to find herself, her happiness, and a path for a different kind of future. It sounds amazing, particularly her time at pastry school in Paris. Ellis is the founder of Vancouver’s Beaucoup Bakery and the leader of The Paris Tours, a culinary excursion group.

Feast: True Love In and Out of the Kitchen by Hannah Howard (April 1st)

Another powerful memoir coming out this spring is Feast: True Love in and Out of the Kitchen by Hannah Howard. Feast is a “compulsively readable memoir of a woman at war—with herself, with her body, and with food—while working her way through the underbelly of New York City’s glamorous culinary scene.” It looks like an incredibly heartbreaking must-read.

Hawker Fare: Stories & Recipes from a Refugee Chef’s Isan Thai & Lao Roots by James Syhabout with John Birdsall (January 23rd)

Chef James Syhabout has created an amazingly vibrant and personal cookbook dedicated to recipes for cooking home-style Thai and Lao dishes. With recipes ranging from sticky rice and Lao beef noodle soup to Lao minced pork salad, every single recipe looks exciting and delicious.

Between Harlem and Heaven: Afro-Asian American Cooking for Big Nights, Weeknights, and Every Day by JJ Johnson and Alexander Smalls with Veronica Chambers (February 6th)

Wow. Wow. Wow. This powerful and astounding cookbook is not about fusion cooking. It’s about the intersections of the African and Asian diasporas and how they have “criss-crossed cuisines all around the world.” Alexander Smalls and JJ Johnson have built this unique understanding of the Afro-Asian-American flavor profile in their renown and historic Harlem restaurants, Minton’s and The Cecil, and are now sharing over 100 recipes in Between Harlem and Heaven with readers and home cooks.

The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of the Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats by Daniel Stone (February 20th)

I love globe-trotting botanists! The Food Explorer tells the true adventures of David Fairchild, a late-nineteenth-century food explorer and botanist who traveled the world and introduced plants and crops such as kale from Croatia, mangoes from India, avocados from Chile, pomegranates from Malta, cotton from Egypt, and the cherry blossom tree from Japan, all to America.

Prosecco Made Me Do: 60 Seriously Sparkling Cocktails by Amy Zavatto (April 3rd)

This fun and beautifully illustrated collection of recipes will have you serving up some seriously sparkling cocktails. Also includes purchasing and serving tips and a guide to cordials, syrups, and liqueurs. It would make a really fun gift for the bellini lover in your life.

This post was originally published on Book Riot.

Literary Boston

With literary landmarks, beautiful and historic libraries, and a wealth of bookstores, Boston is every book lover’s dream. Check out this curated list of some of the best literary Boston has to offer.

Courtesy of Boston Public Library / Front of the Boston Public Library

Boston Public Library

The Boston Public Library’s Central Branch at Copley is one of my favorite places in the city and a can’t miss destination for visitors. Founded in 1848, the Boston Public Library was the first free library in the United States. It’s now home to over 23 million items, including rare books and manuscripts, art, music, and more. With regular exhibitions, musical events, lectures, and book sales it’s got something for everyone and is a true cultural center for the city. Not to mention that the building is breathtaking! Take a stroll through the courtyard and older sections of the McKim building as well as the newly renovated, modern Johnson building. Free art and architecture tours are offered daily.

Courtesy of Boston Public Library / McKim Building Interior

Courtesy of Boston Public Library / Courtyard

Boston Athenaeum

Is one library not enough? The Boston Athenaeum, founded in 1807, is one of the oldest independent libraries in the United States. Its collection today features over half a million volumes, with a particular focus on local Boston history, state, and New England history, as well as its permanent collections of artwork and rotating exhibitions. It’s a beautiful, classical space with columns, busts, and shelves and shelves of books. You have to pay for admission but it’s worth the trip to 10 ½ Beacon Street (I just love that!)

Creative Commons Boston Athenaeum, Boston, Massachusetts by Daderot is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 / Boston Athenaeum

Omni Parker House Hotel

The Omni Parker House Hotel has a long and varied history since its opening in 1855 and that includes some literary greats. The legendary nineteenth-century Saturday Club, an intellectual club that included Emerson, Thoreau, Longfellow, and others, met regularly at the Omni Parker for conversation (and I would assume cocktails). You might also remember the Omni Parker House Hotel from Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence. It’s not just a landmark though, but a working, gorgeously preserved historic hotel, so take a quick break in the hotel bar or restaurant—supposedly they perfected Boston cream pie here—and enjoy!

Creative Commons Omni Parker House by themightyquill is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Front of Omni Parker House Hotel

Famous Author Residences and the Boston Literary District

Speaking of famous authors, Boston has been home to so many I can’t even begin to list them all! Some of the highlights include Sylvia Plath and her residence on Willow Street, Kahlil Gibran, the Lebanese-American painter, poet, and author of The Prophet, and his residence and memorial, and Phillis Wheatley, the African-American poet and the Old South Meeting House where she joined the congregation in 1771. Boston has a designated Literary District (that stretches from the Boston Public Library in Copley Square through the Boston Public Garden and Beacon Hill) and the map provided by the Boston Literary District is an especially useful resource to find author residences, literary landmarks, and more!

 

Bookstores

Boston has a wealth of bookstores, notably independents that serve almost every neighborhood in the greater Boston area. I’ll feature a few here but they are all different and wonderful.

Creative Commons Brattle Book Shop by bill_comstock is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Brattle Book Shop

Brattle Book Shop and Trident Booksellers and Cafe

Brattle Book Shop and Trident Booksellers are two of the best indies in the downtown area. Brattle Book Shop, located next to the Boston Common, is one of America’s oldest and largest antiquarian book shops. It’s known for its collectible and rare books as well as its photogenic outdoor sale lot (And yes, that is a large pencil!) Trident Booksellers and Cafe is a lovely and inviting space, with a great selection of new books and gifts. And the cafe serves a killer brunch.

Brookline Booksmith

Brookline Booksmith, located in Coolidge Corner, Brookline, just outside of Boston, is an absolutely wonderful and beloved independent bookstore. The selection is diverse and it’s obvious that a lot of love (and work) has gone into the curation of the Booksmith’s collection. Check out the used book cellar, the gift section, and all of the fantastic author events, book clubs, and more!

Harvard Book Store

Harvard Book Store is a locally owned independent located in the heart of Harvard Square in Cambridge. It’s an extensive collection of new, used, and remaindered books, Harvard University merchandise, and gifts. The author event series is award-winning and you shouldn’t miss their print on demand, espresso book machine “Paige M. Gutenborg.” Twice a year they open their warehouse in Somerville for a can’t-miss sale.

Other notables:

Grolier Poetry Book Shop

Newbury Comics

Papercuts J.P.

Porter Square Books

Raven Used Books

Creative Commons Make Way for the Damn Ducklings by theilr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 / Make Ways for Ducklings Sculpture

For the Kids

Visiting Boston with the family? Here are some easy, fun, literary adventures to have with children. If you’re downtown near the Boston Common, visit the Make Way for Ducklings Sculpture located in the Public Garden, a tribute to Robert McCloskey’s Caldecott medal-winning children’s story. It’s beloved by Bostonians and you’ll often find the ducklings dressed up for the season or a special event. You can pick up the book Make Way for Ducklings at most Boston-area bookstores for fun bedtime reading.

Also in the Public Garden is the Trumpet of the Swan Bridge and Swan Boats, named after E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan. This is the spot where Louis, a trumpeter swan born with no voice embraces who he is and plays his trumpet. The swan boats are available to ride in the warmer months but it’s a lovely area to walk through regardless of the season.

The World’s Only Curious George Store

A whimsical book and toy store in Harvard Square all about—you guessed it—Curious George. In addition to books, toys, and merchandise related to Curious George, the store also has a delightful selection of other children’s books and toys.

This post was originally published on Book Riot.

Indie Press Guide: Great Books from 2017

Are you planning on reading more books from small independent presses as a New Year’s resolution? Maybe you specifically want to read more books in translation? Check out this indie press guide for great books published by indie presses in 2017!

Her Body and Other Parties: Stories by Carmen Maria Machado (Graywolf Press)

This was one of my favorite books of the fall! Intense and strange, feminist and queer, this collection of stories blends genres—notably horror and fantasy—to shape narratives of women and the violence visited upon their bodies. It’s a powerful and enthralling collection and I can’t wait for more from Carmen Maria Machado.

Have you already read Her Body and Other Parties? I’d recommend Fen: Stories by Daisy Johnson, another stunning collection from Graywolf Press.

Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett (Tin House Books)

Rabbit Cake follows Elvis Babbit and her family as they cope with the death of her mother. Hartnett’s understanding of grief is startling and honest. There’s a clever balance of dark humor and grief with these light (sometimes laugh out loud) funny moments. It’s quirky, funny, and an absolute delight. You’ll come away from the book absolutely in love with Elvis and this sweet coming-of-age novel.

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters came highly recommended to me and it didn’t disappoint. Set against the  tumultuous background of 1960s Chicago, Monsters follows ten-year-old Karen Reyes as she tries to solve the murder of her upstairs neighbor, a hauntingly beautiful and damaged Holocaust survivor. Karen loves nothing more than monsters—she is pictured throughout the graphic novel as a “weregirl”—and the book is full of b-rated monster movie posters and covers of monster magazines. The artwork is extraordinary, pen on lined notebook paper, but in a range of styles that perfectly captures the multifaceted nature of the story.

The Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera Garza, Translated by Sarah Booker (The Feminist Press)

From award-winning author, translator, and critic Cristina Rivera Garza comes a startling gothic novel of gender, power, and language. In The Iliac Crest, two women invade the unnamed narrator’s home and ruthlessly interrogate him about his identity. They claim to know his great secret and when he fails to give them what they want he finds himself in a sanatorium. And this is the first time its been available in English!

 

Moonbath by Yanick Lahens, Translated by Emily Gogolak (Deep Vellum Publishing)

Moonbath is a beautiful and haunting novel that is at once an intimate family saga that spans four generations of Haitian women and at the same time this broad and sweeping story of a country. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished it—it’s lyrical and evocative and the writing will blow you away. It’s not an easy read in many ways; the history of Haiti is often complicated and we watch these women struggle against violence and poverty, but it is such a powerful force of a novel.

I’d also recommend Eve Out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi, translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman (also from Deep Vellum) as a powerful pairing to Moonbath.

A Working Woman by Elvira Navarro, Translated by Christina MacSweeney (Two Lines Press)

Elvira Navarro has been named one of the “Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelists”and one of the major Spanish voices of the future. In A Working Woman, she explores female friendship, madness, and the bizarre through the story of two roommates, Elisa and Susana. It’s a subtle, interesting novel that you won’t forget anytime soon.

Looking for more great reads from independent publishers? Check out Liberty Hardy’s list of 100 Must-Read Indie Press Books.

This post was originally published on Book Riot as an Indie Press Holiday Gift Guide.

Three Women in Translation to Add to Your #TBR Pile

Looking to add more women in translation titles to your TBR piles? Here are three international authors who might not be on your radar but definitely should be!

Bae Suah

Bae Suah is one of the hottest, most experimental voices coming out of South Korea right now. She’s published numerous novels and short story collections and has won several prestigious awards. Suah is heavily influenced by her work as a translator, having translated several books from German, including works by W.G. Sebald, Franz Kafka, and Jenny Erpenbeck. Nowhere to be Found, one of her first books to appear in English, was longlisted for a PEN Translation Prize and the Best Translated Book Award.

Her most recent work, North Station, translated by Deborah Smith, is a collection of stories that embodies all that Suah is known for in her writing—subverting time and narrative, intellectually stimulating questions of art and life, and epically gorgeous writing.

Josefine Klougart

Josefine Klougart is considered one of Denmark’s most important contemporary writers and she’s often compared to Virginia Woolf and Joan Didion. Two of her three novels have been nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize—arguably one of the most prestigious prizes in Scandinavia. She is currently the editor of Den Blå Port, a literary journal in Denmark.

It’s an impossible task choosing between her two novels currently available in English, so I’m just not going to do it! One of Us Is Sleeping and Of Darkness, both translated by Martin Aitken, are beautiful, haunting novels about loss, blending literary styles and genres.

Valeria Luiselli

Valeria Luiselli is a highly-acclaimed Mexican novelist and essayist. Of the authors on this list, she’s probably the author you’re most familiar with—her writing is incredible and she’s received so much well-deserved buzz! She’s received numerous awards, her work has appeared in publications like The New York TimesMcSweeney’s and The New Yorker, and she’s been a recipient of the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35” award.

The Story of My Teeth, translated by Christina MacSweeney, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Best Translated Book Award and won the Los Angeles Times Prize for Best Fiction. It’s an eccentric and challenging novel about storytelling, lies, and the creation of value and meaning in modern art. Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions is another incredible work by Luiselli that I can’t recommend enough!

This post was originally published on Book Riot.

Delicious reads for the holidays!

Delicious books that will pair nicely with all of your holiday plans. And they make fantastic gifts for the foodie in your life!

The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley

This is arguably one of the most important cookbooks to come out this year! Sean Sherman is a Oglala Lakota chef and the founder of The Sioux Chef, a company that not only creates and caters Native American cuisine but also educates the Minneapolis/St. Paul region on indigenous food. Sherman focuses on seasonal and indigenous ingredients (no European staples like flour and sugar) and the recipes reflect this—they look vibrant and mouthwatering. It’s not just a cookbook, though, and the personal stories and history in the book make it a real treasure.

 

Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine by Sarah Lohman

Eight Flavors is a delightful and utterly fascinating culinary history of America. Historical gastronomist Sarah Lohman examines American history, culture, and what she calls the “changing culinary landscape” through eight flavors that she argues are influential to American cooking. The eight flavors are: black pepper, vanilla, chili powder, curry powder, soy sauce, garlic, MSG, and Sriracha. In each chapter she explores a flavor and the history of how it made its way to the American table.

 

The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twitty

I love a good food memoir and The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty is a powerful and compelling memoir of Southern cuisine and food culture. Twitty traces his personal ancestry through food and cooking in this great mixture of stories, recipes, historical documents, genetic tests, and details from his own travels—it’s a combination of everything, but it comes together beautifully. And between the illustrations, the color photographs, and the recipes, it’s a striking book.

Ten Restaurants That Changed America by Paul Freedman

More than just a collection of profiles, Ten Restaurants That Changed America is a social and cultural history of “dining out in America.” Freedman discusses ten historically significant American restaurants and the history and events that shaped them (and that they in turn influenced.) The restaurants include: Delmonico’s, Antoine’s, Schrafft’s, Howard Johnson’s, Mamma Leone’s, The Mandarin, Sylvia’s, Le Pavillon, The Four Seasons, and Chez Panisse. It’s also a gorgeously designed book with photographs and menus scattered throughout.

Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live For Taste by Bianca Bosker

I’m finishing this list like I’ll be be finishing off my Thanksgiving meal—with a glass of wine. Bianca Bosker’s Cork Dork is the perfect light, fun (but surprisingly informative) read for your holiday weekend. Bosker is no wine expert, but a tech journalist who decides to learn all she can about wine and try her hand at the Court of Master Sommeliers exam. Full of wine history, science, tastings, and more, Cork Dork is an immersive and obsessive, but ultimately delicious read.

This post was originally published on Book Riot.