#WITMonth Recommendations!

August is Women in Translation Month, something that’s very near and dear to my heart. Why do we need a specific month dedicated to reading women in translation? The numbers alone are pretty bleak. The publishing industry as a whole publishes very few works of translation to begin with—the number that’s often cited is three percent, although it’s probably lower than that. But let’s stick with three percent—so only three percent of titles published in English are international titles written originally in a language other than English. Of that small percentage of books, 28.7% of translations published in 2008–2018 were written by women. I’ll post more specifics later but those numbers* are dismal, especially when considering some of the exciting and award-winning translations currently beloved by English reading audiences (think Elena Ferrante, Man Booker International Prize winner Han Kang, and Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexeievich.)

Want to add more works in translation to your #TBR pile? I recommend the following titles and authors to celebrate (and support!) women in translation: 

Recitation by Bae Suah

Translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith, Bae Suah’s Recitation is a wandering and lyrical meditation on memory and language reminiscent of Sebald. Suah is one of the most fascinating writers in South Korea right now and her books are coming out at a rapid pace.

Her other titles currently available in English include A Greater Music and Nowhere To Be Found and North Station comes out from Open Letter Books in October!

The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz

“A very real vision of life after the Arab Spring written with dark, subtle intelligence, The Queue describes the sinister nature of authoritarianism, and illuminates the way that absolute authority manipulates information, mobilizes others in service to it, and fails to uphold the rights of even those faithful to it.” (back cover)

Translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette. The Queue is this terrifying dystopian novel set in a non-specific Middle Eastern city under authoritarian rule. It’s powerful and startling. The author, Basma Abdel Aziz, is also an important activist and figure in Egypt right now and this is her first book translated into English.

Umami by Laia Jufresa

Translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes. I haven’t read this yet but Umami is at the top of my list! The novel is set in Mexico City in a neighborhood with a cluster of five house named after tastes: Sweet, Salty, Bitter, Sour, and Umami. It sounds like an inventive and poignant novel about grief.

“A thoughtful, eccentric, and heart-wrenching interwoven story told from the Umami tells the stories of characters who are dealing with mortality, abandonment, and loss.” —World Literature Today

 

Looking for more? Check these authors out!

Clarice Lispector (Lispector’s been called Brazil’s greatest modern writer and the most important Jewish writer since Kafka.)

Josefine Klougart (Klougart has been hailed as one of Denmark’s greatest contemporary writers.)

Can Xue (A Chinese avant-garde fiction writer and literary critic. I’d recommend Frontier and The Last Lover.)

Dubravka Ugresic (Ugresic, a Croatian native now living in Amsterdam, was awarded the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 2016.)

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Fun Jane Reads!

Fun Jane Austen related reads that are on my #TBR list for this summer! Any and all recommendations are always welcome.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

 

I’ve had Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff on the very top of my TBR pile for a solid year (or more!) and after just finishing it I’m very angry with myself for letting it languish there for so long. It left me gasping. An utterly fascinating, beautiful, and dark portrait of a marriage. I know she has other novels—what should I read next? (Not my picture but isn’t it gorgeous?)

Remembering Jane

Jane Austen, one of England’s foremost and most beloved novelists, died 200 years ago today, July 18, 1817, at the age of 41. She was buried in Winchester Cathedral where thousands travel every year to pay their respects. Five years ago I went there myself, chasing Jane. I’ve chased Jane for much of my life, loving the wit, depth, and challenge of Jane Austen’s novels since day one. I studied abroad in the spring of 2012 in Bath, England, taking classes through Oxford and interning at the Jane Austen Centre. Living in Bath was a dream come true for a Janeite. Every day, I walked by places she lived and buildings and pathways she describes intimately in her novels. I explored who I was, the things I loved, and when I returned to New York I changed my major and embraced my desire to work in book publishing.

And now, dear readers, how could I possibly leave you without a list of books to satisfy all of your Jane Austen desires?

Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin

One of the most well-recognized biographies of Jane Austen’s life, it’s also my favorite. It’s a vivid and immensely rich portrayal of Jane Austen, dismantling the image of Austen as a sheltered spinster. It’s not a light read by any means—Austen’s life was filled with tragedy and frustration—but it’s so worth the time. I’d also recommend Jane Austen’s Letters edited by Deirdre Le Faye.

 

Longbourn by Jo Baker

“If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them.”

I’m often overwhelmed by the sheer amount of Jane Austen spin-offs and retellings available but if I could only read one it would be Longbourn by Jo Baker. It’s a downstairs retelling of Pride and Prejudice and while it has all of the romance and drama of the original it also captures the daily life of the lower classes in Regency England during the Napoleonic Wars. It adds this level of grit and nuance to the original that is fascinating.

 

A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter by William Deresiewicz

Don’t let anyone fool you—men love Jane Austen too! A Jane Austen Education by book critic William Deresiewicz is part memoir and part analysis of all six of Austen’s novels. Deresiewicz looks back at the arrogant young man he was when he first read Austen and details the lessons he’s taken away from each novel (Northanger Abbey: learning to learn, Persuasion: true friends.) It’s honest and moving and has this sweet, poignant ending that I just adored.

 

Other fun (and some bizarre, but hey I’m no purist) related titles that I recommend:

Among the Janeites: A Journey Through the World of Jane Austen Fandom by Deborah Yaffe

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Bridget Jones’s Diary: A Novel by Helen Fielding

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

Jane and the Damned by Janet Mullany

Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith

Pride and Promiscuity: The Lost Sex Scenes of Jane Austen by Arielle Eckstut and Dennis Ashton

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters

(Cover picture is from Penguin Books USA, shared on their Twitter. Isn’t it beautiful?)