What to Read When It’s Women in Translation Month


The waning summer days of August have not traditionally been the most active for literature. While August is a major holiday month in places such as Europe, back home, things slow into the doldrums. But in recent years, sleepy August has been a time of literary activism to bring female writers from across the non-Anglophile speaking world to English readers.

Such is the writing celebrated this month by the international translation community. Its focus on women in translation highlights the variety of storytelling and narration styles employed by  female writers outside of anglophone channels by their equally commendable translators. Women In Translation month has grown since inaugurated in 2013 into an organized global movement that includes translators from all backgrounds and genders.

To celebrate, here are nine recommendations spanning the globe and a variety of styles, themes, and concerns—from Mexico to Thailand; about motherhood, daughterhood, tradition vs modernity, life after transitioning; stories that span fabulist tales to true crime narratives. What is offered here is but a small sampling of recent publications, but more information and further reading can be found at the organization’s site.


Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree; translated from the Hindi by Daisy Rockwell
This book turned heads after being the first winner for the 2022 International Booker Prize to be translated from the Indian subcontinent. A playful novel set in contemporary northern India, about a family and the inimitable octogenarian matriarch rediscovery of life after the death of her husband.


My Men by Victoria Kielland; translated from the Norwegian by Damion Searls
A fictional account based on Belle Gunness, the adopted name of a late nineteenth-century Norwegian immigrant who became America’s first female serial killer, this novel turns the tropes of true crime on its head with the close third-person narration of Gunness’s life.


Mild Vertigo by Mieko Kanai; translated from the Japanese by Polly Barton
In this intoxicating stream-of-consciousness novel, a young woman named Natsumi tackles the existential traps of motherhood, marriage, and domestic captivity as she lives out her days in a Tokyo apartment with her husband and two sons. A subtle and captivating work.


It’s the End of the World, My Love by Alla Gorbunova; translated from the Russian by Elina Alter
What’s it like to live in a country outcast from the rest of the world by its war-crazed leader? In Gorbunova’s fiction, otherworldly forces, dark phantasmagoria, and the horrors of underground life cross with mythical fairytales to paint a disquieting portrait of contemporary Russia. Send Italo Calvino to hell and he might report back with this.


Kibogo by Scholastique Mukasonga; translated from the French by Mark Polizzotti
This novel by the acclaimed Rwandan novelist is written as a series of stories passed around a campfire. Mukasonga’s recounts, in four beautifully woven parts, the clash between ancient Rwandan beliefs and of the clash with European missionaries who are determined to replace them with Christianity.


This Is Not Miami by Fernanda Melchor; translated by Sophie Hughes
Set in and around the city of Veracruz in Mexico, This Is Not Miami delivers a series of devastating stories—spiraling from real events—that bleed together reportage and the author’s rich and rigorous imagination. A book that probes deeply into the motivations of murderers and misfits, into their desires and circumstances, forcing us to understand them and even empathize, despite our wish to disdain them as monsters.


Written on Water by Eileen Chang; translated by Andrew F. Jones
Chang, a Chinese writer who later emigrated to America in the first half of the twentieth-century, was a major writer who only now is being translated for a readership in her adopted home. This work collects her insightful essays on literature, war, urban culture, and her life as a writer and woman in wartime Shanghai and Hong Kong.


Arid Dreams by Duanwad Pimwana; translated from the Thai by Mui Poopoksakul
Hardly a tourist’s image of Thailand, the cinematic-like stories collected here focus on the divisions of class and the struggles of those trapped by their plot in life and the circumstances that keep them in their place. With a socialogist’s eye and a storyteller’s imagination, her characters are plucked from a variety of backgrounds, a politician’s wife, a man on death, and an elevator attendant.


A Very Easy Death by Simone de Beauvoir; translated from the French by Patrick O’Brian
Newly reissued is this short memoir by the great French thinker and writer. Here de Beauvoir recounts final days of the life of her hospitalized mother. De Beauvoir looks on with increasing grief and introspection as she watches her mother’s autonomy fall into absolute dependency on her nurses and the fear of death challenges her Catholic faith.






Michael Barron is a writer, editor, and translator whose interests mainly lie in peripheral and immigrant writing. He was previously an editor at New Directions and Melville house. He also co-edited Circumference, a magazine of poetry-in-translation, and assembled a global anthology of short stories for Culture Trip. The son of a Salvadoran mother, his Spanish translations include writing from El Salvador, Honduras, Paraguay, and the Dominican Republic. More from this author →