20 Books by Latinas to celebrate Women in Translation Month
August brings great things like carne asada, trips to the beach, and most important of all: Women in Translation Month! Women in Translation Month was launched in 2014, by literary blogger Meytal Radzinski. Women in Translation Month (or WIT Month) started in response to Radzinski’s observation that only around 30% of books published in translation were by women. This is dismal, so she decided to do something about it.
WIT Month is a time to highlight women whose works were originally written in another language and giving them the spotlight they deserve. Translating works by non-English speaking/writing authors opens up our way of thinking and increases our exposure to some truly incredible works that we would otherwise not have access to.
Here at Latinas Leyendo, we’ve decided to celebrate WIT Month by highlighting works in translation by Latina authors in particular. We’ve put together a list of works in translation by Latinas originally writing in Spanish Portuguese and Creole to get you started. We’ll also be participating on social media (Follow @Read_WIT and #WITMonth for more info) and we’ll be sharing and reviewing some of the title on this list too!. Let us know if you’re planning to participate in WIT Or if you have a favorite work in translation by a Latinx author that you don’t see on this list but want to share, feel free to leave us a comment!
FICTION AND POETRY
Before by Carmen Boullosa
Translated from the Spanish by Peter Bush
Carmen Boullosa is one of Mexico’s leading novelists, poets, and playwrights. Before is a coming-of-age story that explores the end of one woman’s innocence in childhood. Of her writing Juan Villoro says, “I don’t think there’s a writer with more variety in themes and focuses . . . The style and range of Carmen Boullosa is unique for its versatility and its enormous courage.” She was shortlisted for the 2015 PEN Translation Award.
A Talisman in the Darkness: Selected Stories by Olga Orzoco
Translated from the Spanish by Mary G. Berg and Melanie Nicholson
Olga Orozco (1920–1999) is considered to be one of the major Argentine writers of the twentieth century. This collection introduces readers to the hallucinatory yet lucid world that Olga Orozco's young narrator, Lía, inhabits and animates with her prodigious imagination and the reality of small-town life on the Argentine plains in the 1920s.
What are the Blind Men Dreaming? by Noemi Jaffe
Translated from the Portuguese by Julia Sanches & Ellen Elias-Bursac
Noemi Jaffe is an award-winning Brazilian author of novels, short stories, poetry, and literary nonfiction. Jaffe’s nonfiction book, What are the Blind Men Dreaming?, portrays three generations of women—their reflections on the Holocaust and how these reflections are influenced by their Brazilian and Jewish identities.
The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli
Translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney
Valeria Luiselli was born in Mexico City and grew up in South Africa. The protagonist of The Story of My Teeth is Highway, an auctioneer (read: storyteller (read: liar (read: legendary auctioneer))) whose most precious possessions are the teeth of the “notorious infamous,” including Plato and Virginia Woolf. Luiselli wrote the book, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, in installments for workers in a juice factory in Mexico.
Seeing Red by Lina Meruane
Translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell
Lina Meruane is a Chilean author whose work, written in Spanish, has been translated into English, Italian, Portuguese, German, and French. Seeing Red is based on Meruane’s own experience of blindness—the novel follows a young Chilean writer who moves to New York for doctoral work and suffers a stroke that leaves her blind. Of her prose, Roberto Bolaño said, “it emerges from the hammer blows of conscience, but also from the ungraspable and from pain.”
Extracting the Stone of Madness by Alejandra Pizarnik
Translated from the Spanish by Yvette Siegert
When Argentinian poet Alejandra Pizarnik committed suicide at the age of thirty-six, she left behind a huge collection of poems documenting her inner life. Of Extracting the Stone of Madness Emily Lever writes, “Pizarnik concisely alludes to the torments of artistic creation through the depiction of suffering that is specific to the female body.”
Umami by Laia Jufresa
Translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes
In prose that is dazzlingly inventive, funny and tender, Laia Jufresa immerses us in the troubled lives of her narrators, deftly unpicking their stories to offer a darkly comic portrait of contemporary Mexico, as whimsical as it is heart-wrenching.
A Simple Story by Leila Guerriero
Translated from the Spanish by Frances Riddle
When Leila Guerriero traveled to Laborde, one dancer’s performance took her breath away, and she spent a year following him as he prepared for the next festival. The result is this superlative piece of journalism, told with tremendous economy and power.
The Tree of Life by Maryse Condé
Translated by the author from the Antillean Creole
The New York Times Book Review hailed Segu, Maryse Conde's unforgettable saga of nineteenth-century Africa as "the most significant historical novel about black Africa published in many a year." Children of Segu, the gripping sequel, was greeted with the acclaim due to a master storyteller at the height of her gifts. Now, with Tree of Life, Conde turns her impassioned, epic eye to the chaos and upheaval of the twentieth century. Rapidly shifting back and forth between Guadeloupe and Harlem, moving from Haiti's desperate slums to the exclusive enclaves of the Parisian upper class, this deeply personal story traces one Guadeloupe family's rise from poverty to riches through several generations.
Fever Dream by Samantha Schweblin
Translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell
Fever Dream is a nightmare come to life, a ghost story for the real world, a love story and a cautionary tale. One of the freshest new voices to come out of the Spanish language and translated into English for the first time, Samanta Schweblin creates an aura of strange psychological menace and otherworldly reality in this absorbing, unsettling, taut novel.
The Island of Eternal Love by Daína Chaviano
Translated from the Spanish by Andrea G. Labinger
From Daína Chaviano, a distinctive literary voice available to English-speaking readers for the first time, comes this multifaceted portrait of the Cuba of this century. As haunting as it is tantalizing, The Island of Eternal Love is an ambitious, provocative, and magical novel that uncovers the secrets of a woman, a family, and an island—all in one spellbinding tale.
Dance on the Volcano by Marie Vieux-Chauvet
Translated from the Haitian Creole by Kaiama L. Glover
Vieux-Chauvet was a major Haitian writer; this is only her second novel to appear in English (the first one, Love, Anger, Madness, was hailed by Edwidge Danticat as "the cornerstone of Haitian literature"). Dance on the Volcano--finally translated by Kaiama L. Glover, a scholar of Haitian literature (and Barnard professor)--follows a celebrated black singer in pre-revolutionary Haiti.
Savage Theories by Pola Oloixarac
Translated from the Spanish by Roy Kesey
Oloixarac is a rising star in the Latin American literary world, with two acclaimed novels under her belt, and has apparently come under fire for "writing like a man," whatever that means. She was one of Granta's Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists in 2010. Thanks to Soho Press, her work will finally be available in English! It's set in the world of Argentinian academia, and who doesn't love a good campus novel?
Madwomen by Gabriela Mistral
Translated from the Spanish by Randall Couch
A schoolteacher whose poetry catapulted her to early fame in her native Chile and an international diplomat whose boundary-defying sexuality still challenges scholars, Gabriela Mistral (1889–1957) is one of the most important and enigmatic figures in Latin American literature of the last century. The Locas mujeres poems collected here are among Mistral’s most complex and compelling, exploring facets of the self in extremis—poems marked by the wound of blazing catastrophe and its aftermath of mourning.
Thus Were Their Faces: Selected Short Stories by Silvina Ocampo
Translated from the Spanish by Daniel Balderston
Jorge Luis Borges wrote that the cruelty of Ocampo’s stories was the result of her nobility of soul, a judgment as paradoxical as much of her own writing. For her whole life Ocampo avoided the public eye, though since her death in 1993 her reputation has only continued to grow, like a magical forest. Dark, gothic, fantastic, and grotesque, these haunting stories are among the world’s finest.
Thursday Night Widows by Claudia Piñeiro
Translated from the Spanish by Miranda France
Claudia Piñeiro's novel eerily foreshadowed a criminal case that generated a scandal in the Argentine media. But this is more than a tale about crime, it is a psychological portrait of a middle class living beyond its means and struggling to conceal deadly secrets. Set durring the post-9/11 economic melt-down in Argentina, this story will resonate among credit-crunched readers of today.
Antígona González by Sara Uribe
Translated from the Spanish by John Pluecker
Mexican poet and author of seven collections, living in the northern state of Tamaulipas. Her booklength poem, Antígona González based on the story of Antigone, is about a woman’s search for the lost body of her brother, who has died in the Mexican drug war. It is spare, evocative, moody, and heartbreaking.
Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their Godfathersby Anabel Hernández Translated from the Spanish by Iain Bruce and Lorna Scott Fox
The product of five years’ investigative reporting, the subject of intense national controversy, and the source of death threats that forced the National Human Rights Commission to assign two full-time bodyguards to its author, Anabel Hernández, Narcoland is the definitive history of the drug cartels. Narcoland takes readers to the front lines of the “war on drugs,” which has so far cost more than 60,000 lives in just six years. Hernández explains in riveting detail how Mexico became a base for the mega-cartels of Latin America and one of the most violent places on the planet. At every turn, Hernández names names – not just the narcos, but also the politicians, functionaries, judges and entrepreneurs who have collaborated with them. In doing so, she reveals the mind-boggling depth of corruption in Mexico’s government and business elite.
The Story of Vicente, Who Murdered His Mother, His Father, and His Sister: Life and Death in Juárez by Sandra Rodríguez Nieto
Translated from the Spanish by Daniela Maria Ugaz and John Washington
Sandra Rodríguez Nieto was an investigative reporter for the daily newspaper El Diario de Juárez for nearly a decade. Despite tremendous danger and the assassination of one of her closest colleagues, she persisted in telling the story of Ciudad Juárez, where sixteen-year-old Vicente and two of his high school friends murdered his mother, his father, and his little sister in cold blood. Through a Truman Capote–like reconstruction of this seemingly incomprehensible triple murder, Sandra Rodríguez Nieto paints a haunting and unforgettable portrait of one of the most violent cities on Earth. This in-depth and harrowing investigation into the thought processes of three boys leads the reader on an exploration of the city of Juárez, as well as the drug cartels that have waged war on its streets, in a bold attempt to explain the inexplicable.
Filming Pancho: How Hollywood Shaped the Mexican Revolution by Margarita de Orellana
Translated from the Spanish by John King
Through memoir and newspaper reports, Margarita De Orellana looks at the documentary film-makers who went down to cover events in Mexico. Feature film-makers in Hollywood portrayed the border as the dividing line between order and chaos, in the process developing a series of lasting Mexican stereotypes—the greaser, the bandit, the beautiful señorita, the exotic Aztec. Filming Panchoreveals how Mexico was constructed in the American imagination and how movies reinforced and justified both American expansionism and racial and social predjudice.