For reasons we have yet to discover, English speakers just don't read translated books, which make up only two or three percent of the titles published each year. Books in translation by women writers are even more difficult to come by, making up just 26 percent of the translated title niche.
With few honors handed out to books by women and translated works, and with no awards for books in translation by women writers, it may seem almost impossible to find female authors — aside from the ubiquitous Isabel Allende, perhaps — among the Haruki Murakamis, Gabriel García Márquezes, and Umberto Ecos.
That doesn't mean that books in translation by women writers have been completely overlooked, however. Although women don't win literary awards nearly as often as men, in recent years, non-English women have frequently featured on shortlists for the Nobel and Man Booker International Prizes, among others.
In 2016, the #BustleReads Challenge tasked book lovers with reading more diversely. Reading women in translation is a great way to diversify your reading list, and #BustleReads Task No. 18 challenges you to read a book originally published in a language other than English. Any of these 23 books in translation by women writers would be an excellent choice. Once you're done here, share your picks for the best books in translation by women writers using the #BustleReads hashtag on Twitter.
1. The Vegetarian by Han Kang (South Korea)
The winner of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize for Fiction, Han Kang's The Vegetarian revolves around a housewife whose rejection of meat eating evolves into a radical transformation.
2. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (Italy)
Pseudonymous author Elena Ferrante wrapped up her award-winning Neapolitan Novels in 2015 with The Story of the Lost Child. The tale of Elena and Lila's friendship in mid-century Italy begins in 2012's My Brilliant Friend.
3. The Land of Green Plums by Herta Müller (Romania)
This award-winning book from Romanian-born German novelist Herta Müller explores the lives of four young adults living as ethnic minorities under Nicolae Ceaușescu's totalitarian rule.
4. The Last Lover by Can Xue (China)
This 2015 winner of the Best Translated Book Award is both a sprawling novel of average length and a treatise on the nature of love, filled with a diverse cast of regular characters.
5. The Tree of Life by Maryse Condé (Guadeloupe)
If you like family sagas, The Tree of Life should be on your TBR. Narrated by a contemporary woman interested in her ancestors, Maryse Condé's novel follows a Central American family's journey across Guadeloupe, Harlem, Paris, and Haiti.
6. Wild Thorns by Sahar Khalifeh (Palestine)
When an expat named Usama returns home to Palestine, he is shocked to find that his neighbors have accepted the Israeli occupation, and joins up with the resistance movement in response.
7. So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ (Senegal)
This semi-autobiographical, epistolary novella won the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa. So Long a Letter centers on a Sengalese woman, Ramatoulaye, as she struggles to support her family in the aftermath of her husband's abandonment and death.
8. Sphinx by Anne Garréta (France)
Nominated for both the Best Translated Book Award and PEN Translation Prize in 2016, this 1986 novel tells the story of the narrator and the object of their affections — without revealing the gender of either person.
9. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (Mexico)
Laura Esquivel's family drama set in turn-of-the-century Mexico was a runaway success in the early 1990s, spawning a well-received film adaptation.
10. Last Train to Istanbul by Ayşe Kulin (Turkey)
After the Alfandaris elope and flee Turkey for France, they believe their worst days are behind them. But when Hitler's forces march on Paris, the young couple must rely on a group of Turkish diplomats to escort them and their Jewish neighbors to safety.
11. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende (Chile)
Another family saga, The House of the Spirits centers on the Truebas: a politically powerful family haunted by the sins of its past.
12. The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Iran)
This graphic memoir begins with the author's childhood in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, and follows her to Vienna and back, as she searches for an identity amidst chaos.
13. Panty by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay (Bangladesh)
The title tale in this story collection centers on a mysterious piece of lingerie, inherited by an apartment tenant, whose sexual adventures begin to mirror those of its previous owner.
14. The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector (Brazil)
This highly anticipated collection of Near to the Wild Heart author Clarice Lispector's short fiction won the PEN Translation Prize and was shortlisted for the Best Translated Book Award in 2016.
15. A True Novel by Minae Mizumura (Japan)
Heathcliff becomes Taro, a Japanese immigrant trying to make his way in postwar New York, in A True Novel: Minae Mizumura's retelling of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights.
16. The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek (Austria)
This 2004 Nobel Prize winner centers on Erika Kohut: a 38-year-old spinster who relieves her frustrations by watching live sex shows and pornographic films. When she begins a whirlwind affair with a teenage student, Erika's unrealized fantasies rise to the surface.
17. The Ten Thousand Things by Maria Dermoût (Dutch Indonesia)
After being sent away to school, protagonist Felicia returns to the Dutch East Indies with a son and without a husband in this poetic novel.
18. Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye (France)
In 2009, this tale about three interconnected immigrants caught between France and Senegal became the first novel written by a black woman to win the Prix Goncourt.
19. Novel without a Name by Dương Thu Hương (Vietnam)
Banned in Vietnam for its portrayal of life during the Vietnam War, Novel without a Name introduces readers to Quan: a North Vietnamese fighter whose youthful passion for Communism has been tarnished by the depravity of war.
20. The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz (Egypt)
Set in a dystopian version of modern day Egypt, The Queue takes its name from the line of people that forms before a permission-granting Gate in the wake of a failed populist uprising.
21. The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson (Finland)
Finn Family Moomintroll author Tove Jansson flexes her literary muscles with The True Deceiver: the story of a social outcast and the elderly woman she manipulates for stability.
22. The Museum of Unconditional Surrender by Dubravka Ugrešić (Croatia)
This semi-autobiographical novel from Dubravka Ugrešić centers on Yugoslavian exiles, who are searching for their place and time in a recently united Berlin.
23. The Time of Women by Elena Chizhova (Russia)
Living in Soviet Russia, three disparate and elderly women care for a young girl with disabilities, whom they must hide from the authorities, after her mother grows ill.
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