August is Women in Translation Month, an annual celebration of the women writers from all over the globe who are working in languages other than English. This month is a moment to recognize the gender disparity in non-English language literature and to call for all women to have equal opportunities to share their voices, stories, and perspectives with the world.
To honor this month, we are showcasing some of our favorite booksellers' recommendations of recent books from women writers working in underrepresented languages:
Witches: A Novel
By Brenda Lozano
Translated by Heather Cleary
Catapult | 8/16/2022
Recommended by Angela María Spring, Owner of Duende District Bookstore
"Mexican author Brenda Lozano captivates with her dual-narrative of a famous curandera/shaman, Feliciana, keeper of the "Book," the secret of psilocybin mushrooms and their key to unlocking ancestral healing ceremonies, in conversation with a younger journalist who explores her own life's story and its possible magic alongside Feliciana's recounting of her own history. I have long been fascinated with María Sabina, the Mazatec curandera and poet who shared the secret of psilocybin with the world, whose legacy reminds me of Zora Neale Hurston's--lost and forgotten by those who once lauded them and abandoned by their own people--so it was fascinating and moving to read Lozano's fictional interpretation, which gives new depth and context via a supporting protagonist rooted in contemporary Western colonized society, where those of us with Indigenous and African lineages have been forced to forget our ancestral spiritual practices but are now beginning to awaken to them once again. I also very much appreciated the translator's note at the beginning!"
Dead-End Memories: Stories
By Banana Yoshimoto
Translated by Asa Yoneda
Counterpoint | 8/9/2022
Recommended by Meghana Kandlur, Bookseller at Seminary Co-op Bookstores
"Banana Yoshimoto's newly translated short story collection, Dead-End Memories, maintains the author's light and easily readable writing style without erasing the hardship and trauma its female protagonists face. Yoshimoto's primary concern throughout the collection is the pursuit of happiness, and across the various stories she describes life's simplest moments as though they were moments of great beauty. Perhaps she is merely keenly aware and able to uncover and foreground the beauty that can be found in even the mundane. The reader is left with a sense of newfound wonder at the range of human experience--from sitting in silence with a loved one to being treated with the utmost kindness and care by a near stranger. A deeply affective and invaluable collection from a truly generational talent, one whose stories remain as poignant as they were upon her English language debut nearly three decades ago."
Days Come and Go
By Hemley Boum
Translated by Nchanji Njamnsi
Two Lines Press | 9/6/2022
Recommended by Margo Grimm Eule, Bookseller at East City Bookshop
"Abi’s mother Anna spends her last days in a Parisian hospital talking endlessly, telling the story of her life in Cameroon -- her ancestors, her village, the woman who raised her and ensured she was educated, and the tragic impact of the Boko Haram insurgency. Skillfully woven around Anna’s story are the difficult truths of Abi’s life in Paris, her son’s life between Paris and Douala, and the history and realities of Cameroon."
Trinity, Trinity, Trinity: A Novel
By Erika Kobayashi
Translated by Brian Bergstrom
Astra House | 6/28/2022
Recommended by Linda Bond, Outreach/Book Club Coordinator at Auntie's Bookstore
"It’s been nine years since the disaster at Fukushima, Japan. Out of nowhere, a disease called Trinity has taken hold of the elderly…they hear voices coming out of black rocks and these voices tell them to do strange things. Our narrator is a woman who has woken in a hospital and cannot remember who she is. As we trace the history of nuclear power and its effects on society, going back to Prometheus who stole fire from the gods, we also hear about three generations of women who have been affected by nuclear power. Japanese author Erika Kobayashi has given us a tense, fascinating and altogether lovely story. Brian Bergstrom has brought it to life for us with an impressive translation into English. This is speculative fiction at its best. It is a literary treat and I highly recommend it to everyone."
Dogs of Summer: A Novel
By Andrea Abreu
Translated by Julia Sanches
Astra House | 8/2/2022
Recommended by Iris Tobin, Bookseller at A Room of One's Own
"Like chafing swim suits or a sugar rush, this book ran hot and grimy. Nine and ten year-olds, Shit and Isora live through the feverish summer of early pubescence at the base of an active volcano. Through experimental prose and Canary dialect, Abreu captivated me with this gross yet magnetic exploration of budding sapphic sexuality."
Bitter Orange Tree
By Jokha Alharthi
Translated by Marilyn Booth
Catapult | 5/10/2022
Recommended by Anna, Bookseller at Newtonville Books
"A window into life in another part of the world, this is a fascinating story of a young woman remembering her family and relationships growing up in Oman while feeling isolated as a student in Britain. The memories of her family back home are intermingled with her trying, wanting, to find a life of happiness and freedom in the present."
Scattered All Over the Earth
By Yoko Tawada
Translated by Margaret Mitsutani
New Directions | 3/1/2022
Recommended by Luis Correa, Bookseller and Manager at Avid Bookshop
"Scattered All Over the Earth is undeniably a classic. A pilgrimage novel with a growing cast of memorable characters embodying a beautiful kaleidoscope of language, loss, identity, and home. Tawada's vision is, as always, wonderfully unique, often funny and particularly here, where she's at her most poignant. Thankfully, this is only the promising beginning of what is set to be a masterpiece trilogy of books."
1,000 Coils of Fear: A Novel
By Olivia Wenzel
Translated by Priscilla Layne
Catapult | 7/5/2022
Recommended by Caitlin Baker, Bookseller at Island Books
"In playwright Olivia Wenzel's debut novel, translated by Priscilla Layne, a black German woman deals with racism in Germany and in the US. Reading 1000 Coils of Fear feels like watching a brilliant one woman play about the past few years. Highly recommended and perfect for book groups."
When I Sing, Mountains Dance: A Novel
By Irene Solà
Translated by Mara Faye Lethem
Graywolf Press | 3/15/2022
Recommended by Mary Wahlmeier Bracciano, Bookseller at Raven Bookstore
"Irene Solà’s When I Sing, Mountains Dance is a gorgeous and masterful novel—I adored every page. Each chapter is narrated by a different member of a small community in the Catalan Pyrenees, be they people, animals, or nature. Folklore is steeped in a luscious brew of mountain air and poetry, and, as decades pass, the characters’ lives grow around a few central tragedies like plants searching for light. Solà’s unique storytelling through the nonhuman is so clever and utterly visceral."
By Barbara Molinard
Translated by Emma Ramadan
The Feminist Press at CUNY | 9/13/2022
Recommended by Anna Claire Weber, Events Director at White Whale Bookstore
"Until the last turn of the page, the hallucinatory Panics is positively seething with motion and a prose so crisp it crackles. The dizzying experience of reading Panics, in all its tense and frenetic glory, felt like watching a bee struggle against a windowpane—it's not going to quit until it makes it out, it's dead on the sill, or it stings you straight in the face. Either way, you wouldn't underestimate it."