Saturday, January 2, 2021

Lists, or, embarking on new projects

I occasionally like making lists. Not necessarily the hard work behind it, but the way a list looks when it's done. I like the way lists can organize thoughts or approaches. There's beauty to it, at the end of the day.

I'd been toying with the idea of daily tweets on my "Women in Translation" account for a while. It's not an original idea, of course, and I've made similar big threads in the past. But I wanted to try to stretch my boundaries a little this year. I want to make it impossible for readers to miss the incredible range of women writers from around the world. 2021 is going to be the year that I simply do not let up. I refuse to.

So here's what I'm doing: I'm making a list. A very long list, to be perfectly honest. For every day of 2021 (not necessarily posted every day, because, well, that won't be possible due to all sorts of factors...), I will be sharing a brief tidbit about one woman writer from around the world writing in a language other than English, living or dead, near or far, translated or not. I know that the list will be imperfect in a lot of ways, whether in terms of giving space to authors it will emerge I do not like (since I am not filtering author inclusion on whether I've read their works or not, at least not at this stage), or in terms of mistakes that may fall along the way in my assumptions or awareness of their works. I expect that the list will end up including authors that will frustrate some readers. Maybe that should even be part of the point, I'm not sure.

I decided to compile this list because I'm tired of the omissions. I'm tired of the fact that time and again, readers come away with the perception that women writers exist in English, and only in English. This simply isn't true. Yes, there are certain biases in place that seem to drive women to write in English over native languages, but more than that, there is a persistent unwillingness to create space for those women who do write in languages other than English. A brief run-through of sites like Words Without Borders and Asymptote Journal reveal that women are often wholly missing from "underrepresented" languages. And to be perfectly frank, these aren't actually languages with few speakers; Punjabi, for example, has over 100 million native speakers, and no translations of works by women... But this is just one example, and while I'm sure some languages have imbalances galore, I'm not convinced that there are simply no women writers.

So just as I've done in the past with the 50 Day Countdowns, I want to set the record straight. There are going to be all sorts of challenges involved in compiling this list, yes, especially since I refuse for it to be an overwhelmingly white, European list either and don't want to repeat authors previously included in the countdowns. There are challenges galore. But you know what? It'll be worth it, if I manage. It'll be worth it to come and say, flatly, "No. Women writers exist across the whole world, across all these languages, cultures, regions, and experiences." Women cannot be the afterthought when it comes to literary engagement or awareness. This new project is just my latest way to try to reset the record, even if only a little bit.

1 comment:

  1. I love this! What a great idea, and I'm excited to learn about many new writers. I have more Women in Translation authors on my 2021 anticipated-books list this year than I can remember having in a long time, which is nice, but yeah, there's still such a lack of awareness of women writers in so many languages.


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