Thursday, March 23, 2017

Announcing WITMonth 2017

Hot on the heels of Women's History Month, I find myself wanting to look forward to the summer, to August, and to new ideas for the 4th annual Women in Translation Month (WITMonth 2017). The project has grown from year to year in a truly astonishing way, with more readers, writers, translators, publishers, librarians, and booksellers getting involved from year to year. But of course, there is always room to advance.

As we know, the imbalance regarding women in translation has not abated in recent years. Certain efforts have been made (by publishers, by translators, by bookstores, etc.) to address the imbalance, with the most recent leading to the formation of the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation. Not only is this wonderful news for anyone seeking a comfortably curated list of recommendations, it is also a strong motivator for publishers to step up their game.

Yet despite such efforts, it's hard to look at objective numbers and not grimace. The recently released Man Booker International Prize longlist, for example, highlights the stark imbalance like nothing else, with only 3 books by women writers on a 13-book-strong list. While many have tried to downplay this (by gently, simperingly pointing out that it merely reflects the publishing imbalance), I am less forgiving. Neither imbalance should exist. It's time to do more than talk about how change needs to occur, and start making it happen.

And so, my dear friends, it is time to announce my personal goals for WITMonth 2017:

Increased exposure

Last year saw more and more readers, bookstores, translators, and publishers get involved in Women in Translation Month than ever before. However, the project itself - and WITMonth by extension - remain woefully niche. Most readers have not only never heard of WITMonth, they haven't even heard of the existing imbalance that led to its inception. As with previous years, the first goal of WITMonth 2017 must be exposure. This means contacting your local bookstores and libraries to see if they will include WITMonth displays. This means contacting publishers with abysmal track records and encouraging them to publish more women in translation. This means sharing the data - and the news - with your fellow readers, translators, bloggers, etc.

Reading the world through Women in Translation

Many of you will likely already be familiar with Ann Morgan's brilliant A Year of Reading the World project. This admirable project did a lot in encouraging readers to expand their horizons, however it was very heavy on English-language literature (often from a foreigner's perspective). Over the next few months, I'll be sharing my personal list of "reading the world through women in translation", which will seek to explore as much of the world as possible through as many languages as possible, all through works by women writers. While it will be impossible to visit every country on earth in this way, the stated goal is to read as much as possible from as many different perspectives as possible. The women in translation project - as I have stated many times - must be intersectional in all forms. While my own reading has largely kept me locked into Europe (and straight, white, middle-class narratives), my hope is that a project of this scope will enable me - and any fellow readers who choose to join me on this many-years-long journey - to break free of any preconceived notions.

Exploring different genres

While I have sought to include books belonging to various different genres every year, WITMonth tends to fall into a fairly predictable "literary fiction" pit. Like with previous years, I hope to encourage readers to explore genres beyond plain literary fiction or poetry, instead exploring thrillers, children's literature, science fiction, fantasy, YA, and romance as well. 

None of these stated goals are particularly new. But nonetheless, I find myself wanting to emphasize the need for diversity, within this project that is all about giving voice to those generally left voiceless. We've many months to go before August, but there's no time like the present to begin planning!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Warwick Prize for Women in Translation!

On this International Women's Day eve, it's wonderful to have some truly good news on the women in translation front!

The newly announced Warwick Prize for Women in Translation - currently accepting submissions - is a wonderful step towards increasing visibility for women writers translated into English, and raising awareness of the startling global imbalance.

Prizes are more than just a monetary reward for a certain author (or in this case, author/translator team). Prizes are more than just ego boosts. Prizes are a brilliant way for many readers to identify high-quality books that might interest them. They provide authors with exposure, something sorely needed in a field as marginalized as that of women writers in translation. Prizes also encourage publishers to produce more of the thing, in this case showing many publishers of literature in translation that there is a market for women writers from around the world. This prize will help raise awareness of the problem, as well as provide many new readers with great recommendations across genres.

I cannot express how thrilled I am that this prize is happening and how happy it makes me. And who knows, maybe there'll be a longlist by next August (WITMonth!) that we can all shadow...!