• Jean Casella
  • Found in Translation: What to Read for International Women's Day
Found in Translation: What to Read for International Women's Day
Contributor
Written by
Jean Casella
March 2010
Contributor
Written by
Jean Casella
March 2010
Here's an idea for a new federal law: Before the United States can go to war with any country, all literate Americans must read one book by a writer from that country (poetry, fiction, memoir, and creative nonfiction only--no dry political tretises). This single requirement would go a long way toward ensuring that we see our prospective "enemies" in human terms, and think hard before making the decision to wreak destruction on their homes, families, and communities. While we're at it, let's have the law say that the book has to be written by a woman, since women are the real invisible casualties of war. Seeing that we're already at war on two fronts (and my law has less chance of passing than single-payer health care), I propose that all U.S. members of She Writes commit to buying and reading a book by a woman writer from Iraq or Afghanistan. Here's a list to get us started. It is, sadly, rather short, reflecting the dearth of translations of international women's writing. In the case of Afghanistan, where there are powerful barriers to women writing and being published even in their own languages, I am not aware of a single novel by a woman that has been translated into English. I hope other She Writers will add to this list. IRAQ Haifa Zangana, City of Widows and Dreaming of Baghdad (memoir) Alia Mamdouh, Naphtalene (novel) Betool Khedairi, The Sky So Close (novel) Nadje Sadiq Al-Ali, Iraqi Women: Untold Stories from 1948 to the Present (nonfiction) The extraordinary literary translation web site Words Without Borders has poetry by Iraqi women, including Nazik al-Malaika and Dunya Mikhail. AFGHANISTAN Malalai Joya, A Woman Among Warlords (memoir) Nelofer Pazira, A Bed of Red Flowers (memoir) Latifah, My Forbidden Face (memoir) For more writing by Afghan women, check out (and support) the amazing Afghan Women's Writing Project . If you're in the Los Angeles area, you can also celebrate International Women's Day by attending a dramatic reading of work by AWWP writers, tonight at 6 pm at the Museum of Tolerance. And here's another reason to celebrate: the recent launch of Belletrista, which describes itself as "a not-for-profit, bimonthly web magazine which seeks both to encourage cross-cultural understanding through international literature written by women and to increase the visibility of that literature." It's about women writers as well as women's writing, and includes reviews, interviews, lists of new and noteworthy books, and more. I'm reading my way through the most recent issue (there are four so far) and loving it.

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Comments
  • Patricia O\'Toole

    Great idea! And thanks for the list. The editors at Words Without Borders might be a source of more titles.

  • Naomi Thiers

    Thank you SO much for this important listing. I don't think I've read anything by an Iraqi or Afghan woman, and this makes me want to aim to do so. I'll also check out Belletrista--what a beautiful name! Naomi

  • Thanks for sharing this list, Jean. And I'd vote in favor of your proposed federal law.

  • Deborah Siegel Writing

    Love this post, Jean - thank you!!

  • Sandra Hunter

    This is fantastic, Jean. I'm going to track down a few of these and see if I can get them onto the reading lists at my college.

  • Lynne Kenney, PsyD

    WOW TY, can't wait to teach our girls!

  • K.E. Hoffman

    Thanks for this list (and dream law) -- great ideas.