By Niina Bailey and Alice Reynolds
This week we are celebrating International Women’s Day by showcasing some upcoming books written and translated by women.
Indeed, it is still important to give these authors and translators a platform too, as though, according to the European Commission, women account for over 75% of independent language professionals and about 55% of language company employees, the language services industry is owned and operated by men.
In publishing, the picture looks positive in the UK: according to some recent research, women are publishing more than men, and make up 64% of the total publishing workforce (78% of editorial, 83% of marketing and 92% of publicity), though, gender imbalances worldwide remain that still need to be addressed. Thus, as a column dedicated to this very industry, we are keen and excited to share some of the work of these amazing female writers and translators and honour the women who have significantly changed (and still do!) the publishing industry.
Ivan and Phoebe (Іван і Феба) by Oksana Lutsyshyna. Translated by Nina Murray, published by DeepVellum in June 2023.
Set in the last years of Soviet rule and the first years of Ukrainian independence, Ivan and Phoebe by Oksana Lutsyshya follows the lives of young people involved in the student protests in the Revolution on the Granite in 1990. The book shows the struggle of the characters as they navigate the rights to express free speech and protest and the models of marriage and home life in cities of Uzhgorod, Kyiv and Lviv. Trauma after revolution is discussed, as, while Ivan struggles to talk about his trauma, Phoebe’s monologues function as an insight into her pain.
The book won Ukraine’s Taras Shevchenko National Prize for Literature in 2021, which is the country’s highest state award for outstanding achievements in culture and arts. Oksana Lutsyshyna is a Ukrainian writer, literary scholar and lecturer in the Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at the University of Texas in Austin. This June, DeepVellum is publishing Nina Murray’s translation. Both female writers from Ukraine, the importance of the publication of this novel is manifold.
What You Are Looking For is in the Library by Michiko Ayoama. Translated by Alison Watts. Published by Doubleday in 2023.
What You Are Looking For is in the Library is a love letter to books, libraries and getting the perfect book recommendation. It follows Sayuri Komachi, a librarian in Tokyo. However, she is not just an ordinary librarian; she can read the souls of anyone who comes into her library. She can sense exactly what they are looking for in their lives and gives them the perfect book recommendation that will help them find it. The people who come into her library are all at a crossroads in their lives and the books Komachi recommends to them will change their lives. This book promises a cosy reading experience and is perfect for book lovers.
What You Are Looking For is in the Library has been very successful in Japan. It has become a bestseller and it was shortlisted for the Japan Bookseller’s Award. It is being translated into fifteen languages. It has been compared to The Midnight Library and Before the Coffee Gets Cold so if you enjoyed these books, this might be the book for you. I, for one, cannot wait to read it. It will be published on the 10 August.
The Wind Knows My Name by Isabel Allende. Translated by Frances Riddle. Published by Bloomsbury in 2023.
The Wind Knows My Name is the newest book by Isabel Allende who has been described as “the world’s most widely read Spanish-language author.” It is told in two timelines, one starting in Vienna in 1938, and the other in Arizona in 2019. In 1938, six-year-old Samuel Adler’s father disappears during Kristallnacht. Samuel’s mother cannot guarantee his safety so she puts him on the last train transporting children out of Nazi-occupied Austria to England. He travels alone with almost nothing with him. Eighty years later, seven-year-old Anita Diaz and her mother flee danger in El Salvador to the United States. However, Anita gets sent to a border patrol facility in Arizona as a result of the new family separation policy. She tries to deal with her new reality by escaping to a magical world in her imagination. Meanwhile, a young social worker is trying to find Anita’s mother.
The book intertwines these two timelines and follows Samuel and Anita as they search for their family and a home. It explores migration and belonging, which Allende has personal experience with as she had to flee Chile in 1973 after general Augusto Pinochet took over the country in a military coup. The Wind Knows My Name promises to be a hard hitting story that is still very much rooted in reality. It will be published on the 6 June.