WorldBookProject – Read Women and Women in Translation

About a year and a half ago, when I started my project to read the world, I had no idea about the imbalance in the translation of non-anglophone female/male writers.  Or indeed the imbalance between published male/female anglophone authors. Then I came across this blog post https://womenintranslation.com/ 58 and decided to look into my own reading habits. Since then I’ve tried to read an equal number of books by male and female authors (I have yet to find an author who identifies as non-binary).

So, how am I doing? Out of the 143 books I’ve read so far there were 58 books written by women (40%), 10 have mixed authorship (6%), and there was one book were the authors were unknown. That makes me look a lot better than the anglophone publishing industry, but there’s still some room for improvement.

141 Guadeloupe: Maryse Condé – I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem

This.Is.Mindblowingly.Good. It is also brutal, painful, and violent. The main themes are misogyny, racism, and religious hypocrisy. Still, I was drawn into the main character’s life and it was difficult to let go. I’ve since read another short story by the same author, and I’m eagerly looking forward to reading much more by her.

142 Philippines: Jessica Hagedorn (ed) – Manila Noir

I listened to these short stories as an audiobook. They were read by Tez Bois and Ramon De Ocampo. Both did a good job and made the gruesome stories come to life. Again, this was a book with a lot of (sexual) violence in it. However, and I think this is a hallmark of good short stories, they mostly had a really surprising twist. Quite a number also figured transgender characters, which was interesting.

143 Swaziland: Sarah Mkhonza – What the Future Holds

I really like a character in a story who does something not in line with tradition and gets away with it. This is not giving away the denouement – we as readers know this from the first chapter of this book. Which also might have not been the best idea on the part of the writer, but maybe this is because it’s a debut novel. Anyway, seeing the main character grow and grow up and fight for her identity and place in life made me really root for her. Again, this is another writer to explore further.

WorldBookProject – Madagascar, Malawi & Northern Ireland

The year started off with some very good books for my undertaking of reading a book from each country/dependent place on this planet. Many thanks to Shona Potts for recommending Lucy Caldwell.

88 Madagascar: Michèle Rakotoson – Dadabé

This was a short but powerful book. It contained a novella and two short stories, one of which dealt with the plight of people who lived in a refugee shelter. Where and how do you get clothes, food, privacy, education, work, hygiene …?

89 Malawi: Tiyambe Zeleza – Smouldering Charcoal

Another rather political book which I found immensely gripping. Dealing with corrupt people in power (morally and otherwise), getting by when living below the poverty threshold or having to live with ill family members were just some of the topics explored.

90 Northern Ireland: Lucy Caldwell – All the Beggars Riding

This was my audiobook of the month, and it was wonderfully narrated by Catherine Harvey. At first I found the stream of memories of the main character quite confusing, especially since she didn’t remember the facts and eventually made up things that could have happened. In the end, however, all of this came neatly together as an intriguing example of how we create stories, professionally or just the every day ones. Like the other two books, I can definitely recommend this one.