Wednesday, August 29, 2018

WITMonth Day 29 | Going mainstream

I often worry about WITMonth being too niche. It feels like something that shouldn't be particularly complicated, yet it's so foreign to so many readers that there clearly is something about reading women in translation that hasn't quite broken into the mainstream. Literature in translation at large remains this odd sort of genre (even though it isn't a genre!), only occasionally breaking into the mainstream.

I've had a lot of goals for WITMonth over the years. Most of them have even come to pass, with things like the new releases database, recommendation lists, library and bookstore recommendation tables, and more growing out of this once smaller venture. There have also been new things, like this year's WITreadathon on BookTube, which has been an absolute delight to follow (where I've been able) and which I'd love to see happen more in the future as well.

But I think I'm left with only one more real goal, and it's a fairly straight-forward (if not simple) one: I want to see WITMonth go mainstream.

Does that make me sound like a sell-out? Or like I'm aiming too high? Because truthfully, I recognize that going mainstream is a lofty goal. After all, this is a project that focuses on books that aren't typically in the public's eye. Most literature in translation remains published by independent publishers (heck, even AmazonCrossing isn't exactly mainstream), with little widespread publicity or hype like most Anglo titles. (I say most, because of course there are huge problems within the English-language literary community as well when it comes to marginalization, but this is not my personal focus, important as it may be!) To then select from within this small category of books even fewer books that just so happen to be by women/trans/nonbinary authors is almost laughably specific. How could this ever become a commonplace movement?

I believe that it's possible, though. I really do. I've seen WITMonth grow from ten bloggers cheerfully doing their thing to a worldwide movement across multiple platforms with hundreds of participants and active involvement on the part of publishers, translators, booksellers, and libraries. WITMonth has not, it's true, been extensively covered in most of the mainstream media book pages, but it has been mentioned in a few over the years. There are no universally beloved celebrities touting the importance of reading women in translation, yes, but there are passionate readers around the world (literally!) who are encountering this project for the first time every day. And most readers eagerly embrace this project, recognizing their own prior biases and seeking a way to rectify them. Readers want to encounter new worlds, from new perspectives.

My recurring theme this WITMonth has been about action, whether when addressing publisher imbalances or our own reading biases. And before that, I also talked a lot about why I felt that what was missing from WITMonth was the larger feminist movement. In my mind, these two themes are how WITMonth can go from being a niche, popular blog-movement to a worldwide phenomenon, recognizing the need to promote women writers from around the entire globe. It's time for literary-minded feminists to fight for internationalism as a part of intersectionality, it's time for gatekeepers to acknowledge their importance and help open the gates, and it's time for readers to make clear that things cannot stay static forever.

There's nothing niche about the concept of women writers in translation, after all, and there shouldn't be anything niche about recognizing the need to promote those writers within a system that periodically disadvantages them. There is no reason that every reader wouldn't be able to find excellent books by women in translation, from all over the world (remember all those "10 Recommended" lists this month?), which means there is no reason that every reader in the world won't be able to take part in - and fall in love with - WITMonth.

Let's go mainstream, folks.


  1. Well, WeNeedDiverseBooks started off small too, and now it's very influential. I'm seeing a fairly large influx into YA (I don't see juvenile as much so wouldn't know). See if you can get Emma Watson on board?

  2. Or, failing Emma Watson, Reese Witherspoon, who also seems keen to bring women's stories onto the screen (so far mostly English-speaking world, but perhaps she can be persuaded...)

  3. So my takeaway is that we need a celebrity patron! Oh dear... we may be doomed!


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