Monday, August 24, 2020

WITMonth Day 24 | Where are the nonfiction women in translation? | Brief thoughts

I've written before about the astonishing gaps among academic publishers in publishing women writers in translation. My first exposure to the problem was through the original Three Percent database analysis, among fiction titles, but once I began to compile my own data, I realized that academic presses have massive gaps in publishing women in translation

I've touched on this topic a few times throughout the month, directly and indirectly, mostly when discussing accessibility. Academic publishers are notoriously expensive and their books are often harder to find in public libraries, eLibraries, or local bookstores. Their topics are typically also deemed less "accessible", due to crossing different nonfiction subgenres and topics. Academic presses excel in nonfiction, and for this reason I have recently had to add an asterisk to the typically cited "women writers represent 30% of translations into English" - the original statistics I compiled from the Three Percent database do not take these into account. And sadly, academic presses publish masses of nonfiction in translation that is overwhelmingly (75-85%) by men writers. This is a data gap we must not forget.

Nonfiction is often left on the wayside when we talk about literature in translation, but it shouldn't be, and certainly not in the context of women in translation. Beyond a sort of cultural prestige that nonfiction can carry (in my mind, at least), nonfiction often shapes our understanding of the world by defining it. Nonfiction is where philosophical, political, scientific, historical, and literary debate and discourse is carried out, which itself plays a role in cementing certain views or perspectives. If these are consistently the views or interpretations of men (with the exception of the rare memoir or feminist text), we are limiting ourselves in our perspectives. Similarly, if these are all Western European writers, there are likely countless histories, lessons, and conclusions that we are simply not exposed to. Isn't academia supposed to cross borders and open our eyes as much as possible? Why aren't English-language academic presses representing the true scope and diversity of academic research across the world? And why are women so lacking in these?

1 comment:

  1. My single WITMonth book was a non-fiction title - but published by The Women's Press so not really a shock that it's by a woman. You raise an interesting and important point here. I do have quite a few non-translated academic books by women but that's because they're in Iris Murdoch studies, which has a good balance of academics.


Anonymous comments have been disabled due to an increase in spam. Sorry!