Last year I discovered that August was Women in Translation month half way through the month and only had time to do a blog post about it. Thankfully I actually thought to plan ahead this year.
So what exactly is Women in Translation month (#WITMonth) and why is it necessary? Originally started by blogger Meytal Radzinski, Women in Translation Month is designed to draw attention to books written by women that are being translated into English.
In general, the English-speaking publishing world lags behind with translated books, leading to a dearth of world literature beyond the classics and already well known translated books. Books translated into English are an estimated three per cent of all published books in the US. Similar numbers can be found across the Atlantic in the UK. Some people suspect that percentage is too high though and that the real number may be much lower.
With such low numbers already, why specifically focus on books written by women? Similarly to other areas of publishing and literature, books written by women receive much less attention and critical acclaim than books written by men. It’s estimated that about a quarter of all translated books are written by women. And even though I was never terribly good at math, it doesn’t take me a calculator to figure out that 25 per cent of three per cent is a pitiably small number. Books written by women are far less likely to be translated than books written by men. And even when they are translated, they are much less likely to be nominated or to win awards.
This then kind of creates a cycle where people are not used to reading translated books, particularly books written by women, so they don’t buy them. Which leads to publishers not publishing more translated books because they don’t sell well, so then there continues to be a lack of translated literature. And it’s all a terrible shame really, as readers and publishers are missing out on such a wealth of amazing literature from across the globe. Women in Translation Month aims to change these statistics, drawing more attention to excellent books written by women in languages other than English. In addition, as we aim to change our reading habits and support women in translation, we should also look for books that are not written by European authors. There’s a lack of statistics in this area, but I found that when looking for translated books by women, too often are European authors overrepresented, erasing fantastic books written by women in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
So what is this bingo challenge?
Women in Translation Bingo is a reading challenge that I whipped up. The goal is to complete five squares in any direction. Any books you read during the month of August can count towards this goal and if you’re super eager to get started, books that aren’t over 50% complete by August 1st will also count. There’s no points for finishing squares or posting reviews although I encourage you to do so. This is mainly because I’m just one person running this challenge and don’t have the ability to keep track of everyone’s points.
A number of the prompts reference reading a book by an author from specific parts of the world, but don’t get really wound up about that. This is mainly to encourage reading widely across the globe rather than solely books by European authors. Geography is a finicky thing and I’m not going to be incredibly nitpicky about whether Italy is part of central, southern, or western Europe (or all of the above). Do a little research and if you think a book fits a particular square then go ahead a count it for that prompt.
Also although Women in Translation Month focuses on books that are translated into English, if you want to read translated books in a different language then go for it! I suggest reading books that weren’t originally written in English though.
A downloadable version of the bingo card is available here on Dropbox.
First Row Across
- Classic Book
- Author from South Asia
- Graphic Novel
- Book Written Before You Were Born
- Author from Central America
Second Row Across
- Author from Western Europe
- Author from East Asia
- Historical Fiction
- Mystery/Crime Novel
Third Row Across
- Book by a Woman of Colour
- Free Space!
- Author from Eastern Europe
- Author from West Asia
Fourth Row Across
- A Love Story
- Author from Africa
- Author from South America
- Short Stories
- Debut Novel
Fifth Row Across
- Author from South East Asia
- Speculative Fiction
- Award Winning
- Author from North America
If you’re looking for books to read I suggest checking out these lists. Also feel free to comment about your favourite translated books here or on twitter, using the hashtag #WITMonth.
- Where Are the Women in Translation? Here Are 31 to Read Now | Words Without Borders
- Read These Women in Translation Now | PEN America
- 10 Books to Check Out for Women in Translation Month | Book Riot
- Women in Translation | Goodreads
Additionally, the second book of my Lady Classics reading series is The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki Shikibu. It’s around a thousand pages but why not attempt to read the world’s first novel for Women in Translation Month. If you don’t feel like lugging around a physical copy of the book, there’s an ebook version available from the University of Adelaide, which is the copy I’ll be using. I’ll be aiming for around 33 pages a day and everyone is welcome to join.