Women in Translation Month was created by Meytal Radzinski in 2014, when she realised that only 30% of books translated into English were written by women. And so she launched Women in Translation Month, a wonderful celebration of world literature which focuses on books written by women in languages other than English. You can find out more information on the Women in Translation site, and about all the official Women in Translation Month activities on Meytal’s blog, where she also compiles an annual list of new translated books.

In 2019 I’m hosting a reading and photography challenge throughout August, #ReadWithBB. I love reading women in translation, and this is the perfect opportunity to challenge myself and share that love with a wider audience. Check my Instagram story highlights for details on how to participate. There are two photo challenges with prizes, and a bingo card for you to complete. You can screenshot the shareable templates or download them here. Some of the bingo card prompts are subjective, like your dream destination. But for the books I recommend in this post I’ve also listed which of the objective prompts they will meet.

Stack of translated books written by women

For the newcomers

If you’re just starting out, I’ve curated my favourite books by women in translation across many different genres. Hopefully no matter what you like to read you’ll find at least one book here to love. 

This list also reveals gaps in my own reading. I don’t have any translated recommendations from many parts of the world, such as the entire African continent, and I only have one work from an Indigenous language on this list. Though I’m passionate about reading women in translation, I still have much to learn and discover. Back in 2016 I wrote a blog post about reading translated literature and not one of my recommendations was written by a woman. At the time I didn’t notice, but it’s a perfect example of how we’re always learning to address our blind spots.

If you’d prefer to read any of these books in their original language, I’ve included the original title where relevant.


Crimson (UK), Last Night in Nuuk (US) 

Original title: Homo Sapienne
Author: Niviaq Korneliussen
Translator: From Greenlandic to Danish by Niviaq Korneliussen; From Danish to English by Anna Halager
Language, Country: Kalaallisut/Greenlandic, Greenland
Summary: A really striking debut novel, Crimson focuses on 5 interconnected friends/lovers/siblings all exploring their queer identities. Each of the 5 characters has a section and their voices are vivid and wholly unique, revealing and hiding things about themselves and each other.
#ReadWithBB bingo prompt: New release, woman translator

The Traveling Cat Chronicles

Original title: 旅猫リポート
Author: Hiro Arikawa
Translator: Philip Gabriel
Language, Country: Japanese, Japan
Summary: One of the most moving books I’ve read in recent years. I cried SO much while reading about Nana the cat and his roadtrip with beloved owner, Satoru. Despite all the tears, it’s sort of a hopeful story, that left my heart feeling warm.
#ReadWithBB bingo prompt: Features an animal

All My Goodbyes

Original title: Cada Despedida
Author: Mariana Dimópulos
Translator: Alice Whitmore
Language, Country: Spanish, Argentina
Summary: Utterly brilliant portrait of a complex inner world told in fragments, a paragraph or two at a time. There was no clear timeline or way to tell which paragraph was from what time, as a reader you were forced to surrender to the flow of the story, let it take you where you needed to go. You had to trust that the author, and in my case, the translator, would give you as much information as you needed to unravel the story.
#ReadWithBB bingo prompt: Woman translator, Short story

Fever Dream

Original title: Distancia de rescate
Author: Samanta Schweblin
Translator: Megan McDowell
Language, Country: Spanish, Argentina
Summary: A dark, twisted dive into the fever-induced memories of a mother. At just 151 pages Fever Dream is barely more than a novella, but each sentence is so intense that reading it is a visceral experience. The entire book is a single conversation between Amanda, a lady who lays dying in a rural hospital clinic, and David, a boy who is not her son.
#ReadWithBB bingo prompt: Features an animal, Woman translator, Short story

The book 'Fever Dream' next to the book 'My Neighbour Totoro'.


My Neighbor Totoro

Original title:  となりのトトロ 
Author: Tsugiko Kubo
Illustrator: Hayao Miyazaki
Translator: Jim Hubbert
Language, Country: Japanese, Japan
Summary: Reversing the typical book-to-film adaptation pattern, this edition of My Neighbor Totoro retells the popular Studio Ghibli animated film with a gentle heart. Eleven-year-old Satsuki and her little sister Mei have recently moved to the country as their mother is very ill. Left alone to explore, they meet Totoro, a magical forest spirit who takes them on adventures.
#ReadWithBB bingo prompt: Features an animal

Young Adult (Fantasy)

A Winters’ Promise

Original title: Les Fiancés de l’hiver
Author: Christelle Dabos
Translator: Hildegarde Serle
Language, Country: French, France
Summary: Imaginative, engaging YA fantasy with some of the most unique world-building I have come across and a really creative magic system. The pace is pretty slow, but the reward as the drama builds up is worth sticking around for.
#ReadWithBB bingo prompt: Woman translator


The City of Woven Streets (UK), The Weaver (US)

Original title: Kudottujen kujien kaupunki 
Author/Translator: Emmi Itäranta
Language, Country: Finnish, Finland
Summary: An enchanting tale of love and resistance that was unexpectedly tender and heartfelt; the story swept me away. Itaranta has crafted a world of intrigue that both defies and embraces the many dystopian tropes, weaving a story with a pattern unlike any other.
#ReadWithBB bingo prompt: Woman translator

Memoir (Illustrated)


Author: Marjane Satrapi ( مرجان ساتراپی)
Translator: Mattias Ripa
Language, Country: French, Iran/France
Summary: A powerful, heartfelt, and beautiful illustrated memoir. Satrapi reflects on her childhood in Iran during the various conflicts and political upheavals that took place, and on her teenage years in Austria and back in Iran. 
#ReadWithBB bingo prompt: N/A, but it may fit opposite hemisphere or dream destination.


Why Did You Lie?

Original title: Lygi 
Author: Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
Translator: Victoria Cribb
Language, Country: Icelandic, Iceland
Summary: A gripping crime novel about truth, lies and the silent space in between. The style in which the narrative unfolds is deliberately disorienting, little fragments being revealed out of order, and mixed in with plenty of red herrings to divert readers’ attention.
#ReadWithBB bingo prompt: Woman translator

The Good Son

Original title: 종의 기원
Author: You-Jeong Jeong (정유정 )
Translator: Chi-Young Kim
Language, Country: Korean, South Korea
Summary: I was swept up in this dark, twisted thriller. What seemed obvious at the beginning unraveled in a way I did not expect. The main character wakes up to find his mother dead and his clothes covered in blood. He has no memory of the night before, and is unsure if perhaps he killed his mother or if there was another person involved. 
#ReadWithBB bingo prompt: Woman translator, new release

Looking for more recommendations? Check out the tags #WiTMonth and #WomenInTranslation on Instagram.

Pin me for later…

What to Read: Best Books by Women in Translation
Tamsien - Babbling Books
Photographer, stylist, blogger, and digital influencer from Melbourne Australia. Avid reader and lover of creative journaling.

1 Comment

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *