What is WITMonth?WITMonth stands for Women In Translation Month! It's an annual event held in August, with the designated purpose of encouraging readers, reviewers, translators and anyone really to take part in the dialogue about women writers in translation, as well as providing us all with a convenient outlet to explore more books by women writers in translation.
Why do we even need WITMonth?
Simple - look at the stats. Women writers represent approximately 30% of translations into English. And if you don't mind me throwing in some anecdotal evidence as well, women writers in translation seem significantly less likely to get profiled by major literary outlets and are less likely to have their books sent for review. Further numerical stats: women are significantly underrepresented in translation awards and additional critical recognition. The problem is widespread and especially worth noting because of the generally low representation of translated literature in the English speaking world.
So what does it mean that I'm participating in WITMonth?
Whatever you want it to mean!
Seriously. That's it. WITMonth requires no effort on your part, except maybe some curiosity and interest in the problem. If you're like me and struggle to plan your reading or follow any sort of plan, having a designated month may seem like torture but it really doesn't have to be. There is no pressure whatsoever involved with WITMonth, and there are no actual demands. Do what you want at the pace that you want in the way that works best for you.
Okay then... what are some different ways to participate?
Here are a few suggestions, with varying levels of involvement and difficulty:
- Share! Let other people know that you are aware of the women in translation problem. Share the stats, share this post and share the love!
- Tweet! The hashtag is #WITMonth (original, right?) but yearlong we use the longer #womenintranslation tag to discuss the issue and link to interesting resources. Check it out!
- Think about the issue. This is probably the easiest. If you're reading this post in August, congratulations! You're participating.
- Read at least one book by a woman writer in translation. It'll be fun, there are a lot of brilliant recommendations.
- Read only books by women writers in translation. If you want to be extra focused, you can say that in August, you're only reading books by women writers in translation. This is a tougher challenge, but a rewarding one: you may be inspired to pick up a book you weren't expecting. I know I was (in 2014).
- Read books by women in translation written before 1960. Go back in time! Contrary to popular belief, non-English or American women did indeed write literature prior to the 1960s and the Feminist Revolution. There's a lot of fascinating literature out there, ready to be explored and rediscovered. In fact, some of the best classic literature was written by women writing in languages other than English. The first novel? Yep, that's a woman in translation.
- Read books by women of diverse backgrounds. Don't get me wrong, Europe is great, but what about the rest of the world, which is also less represented in translations? What about queer women writers, whose identities are often ignored or outright erased? Diversity has many forms, and this is another extra challenge to try to explore it in as many different ways as possible!
- Put the button on your blog, to show your support and participation:
- Read books by women in translation in different genres. Yes, literature in translation is usually of a similar, more "literary" cut... but it doesn't have to be. Another fun challenge is to try to explore the women writing in different genres. Young adult, thrillers, sci-fi, picture books, romance, poetry, nonfiction... there's loads of diversity of genre if you know where to look...
Ahhh! Where do I look for books by women in translation?!
While this is still a work-in-progress database (and yes, you can help make it better), it's got loads and loads of titles just waiting to be tracked down. While the overwhelming majority of the metadata has not yet been filled in, you can still search for language and author for all titles. And for the few that might have some metadata, you may just find the perfect book!
Remember how we started WITMonth? The most important thing to remember here is that we are facing a battle of awareness. Despite many people's good intentions, most readers do not realize how few titles are translated per year into English. Certainly very few are aware of the huge imbalance between publications of women vs men in translations. And so now - armed with all the knowledge on WITMonth you could possibly need - you are ready to go out and do the absolutely only thing that needs to be done: use this knowledge. Share this with other readers, so that more people can recognize this problem. Use it in the bookstore, when looking for your next translated read. Talk about in the industry, where perhaps more publishers may try to improve their publication stats.
And read. And most importantly... enjoy!