Sunday, August 2, 2020

WITMonth Day 2 | An updated FAQ

Hello everyone! It's August and so it's that wonderful time of year I start talking a whole lot about WITMonth. But what exactly is WITMonth? Here's an updated FAQ (you can read similar answers from the last one, circa 2016):

What is #WITMonth?

#WITMonth (or, you know, WITMonth) is "Women in Translation Month", taking place every August since 2014!

Here's this year's main banner, with the others available at this link:

Okay, but what does "Women in Translation" actually mean?

Women in Translation is the name of the project I've been taking part in on this blog and elsewhere on the internet since late 2013. The purpose of this project is to promote women writers from around the world writing in languages other than English (whether they have been translated into English specifically or not), as well as works by similarly underrepresented trans and nonbinary writers (assuming they do not otherwise ask to not fall under a gendered effort).

Does that mean you focus on women translators too?

No, not necessarily. While translator voices and experiences also bring a lot to the table and are hugely important as a separate conversation, the main issue at hand is that women writers are strongly underrepresented in translations to English (and other languages as well). WITMonth's original intent and continued directive is to focus on women writers. If you'd like to focus on women who predominantly translate women writers, though, I certainly won't stop you!

Why do we even need this?

Based on research I've done here on this blog including use of the brilliant Three Percent database (and other research elsewhere), women writers account for just around 30% of new releases of fiction and poetry titles in translation in the US per year. Factoring in classics re-releases and an extreme bias in academic non-fiction translations into English, the actual rate of women in translation is even lower. Given how few books are translated into English in the first place, this leaves English-language readers out in the cold when it comes to an extraordinary wealth of women writers from around the world.

I don't look at an author's gender when I choose a book, nor what language it was written in or the author's race. Why does it even matter?

Our backgrounds, experiences, and cultural contexts shape art in tremendous ways. Even things like the choices we make in terms of writing a story for an audience within a certain culture or for one outside of it fundamentally changes what that story is. Writers from different backgrounds and experiences from our own (and our own are all very different!) are ultimately both windows and mirrors, not necessarily "teaching" lessons but still enabling us to experience the world through someone else's eyes. There's so much to gain through that.

Is WITMonth trans-inclusive?

Yup, so long as specific authors are okay with it. 

Wait, the books don't actually have to be translated?

Correct! While this blog and the associated social media accounts are specifically geared for an English-language audience, WITMonth and the Women in Translation project more broadly are both wholly international efforts (and indeed grew out bilingual reading). The purpose is to promote women writing in languages other than English. This can mean you can talk about a book by a woman writing in your native Lithuanian or Igbo or Nepali, or any translation from a French writer into one of those languages, and so on.

But what about books translated from English into other languages?

These aren't part of the WIT movement. English-language writers - men, but also women - dominate the international literary conversation, particularly for smaller countries/languages (data to come) while women writers from other languages are all but invisible. Translations from English don't really need that extra help or attention beyond general and wonderful movements like Read Women. WITMonth specifically remains focused on all other languages.

What do I need to do to get involved in WITMonth?

You're already involved! The #1 Most Important Thing you can do when it comes to WITMonth and the Women in Translation project is become aware of it. You can read the stats, read a newly released (or a bit more backlog!) book by a woman writer in translation, encourage your local library or favorite bookstore to host a WITMonth event or prepare a WITMonth display, take part in a WITMonth book club or discussion, or even just think about your own reading. There are no expectations - if you want to take part in WITMonth, you already are.

Where else can I find information about WITMonth?

Most of my WITMonth activity is on Twitter, under the @read_WIT handle (and some under @biblibio). Photos and such are all on Instagram under @readWIT. I also occasionally post videos on Youtube. But you can (and should!) also check out the #WITMonth tags on both Twitter and Instagram, both for book recommendations and brilliant discussions and posts about the Women in Translation project overall, from all across the world.

And if I have any other questions...?

You can always email, tweet, or message me! I can't promise I'll respond immediately, but I will definitely try

Happy WITMonth!

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