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33 International Women Writers Who Are Bold for Change

By Jessie Chaffee

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we’re reading work by women whose writing and lives epitomize this year’s theme: “be bold for change.” Here’s our recommended reading list:

An excerpt from Egyptian writer Basma Abdel Aziz’s The Queue, translated by Elisabeth Jaquette: “Tarek would later learn that Yehya had indeed gone to the Gate.” 



An excerpt from Lebanese graphic artist Zeina Abirached’s Le Piano Oriental, translated by Edward Gauvin: “I tiptoed away, letting the sleeping city wake without me.”



Palestinian writer and activist Asmaa Alghoul’s story “Your Baby,” translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid: “She wanted to search the faces of the doctors looming over her for a trace of forgotten laughter . . .”



Japanese writer Takako Arai’s poem of women factory workers, “Wheels,” translated by Jeffrey Angles: “She hallucinated about fire / A fire’s coming! It’ll be here soon! / Perhaps she wanted her own fires to burn”



Mexican novelist, poet, and playwright Carmen Boullosa’s poem “Sleepless Homeland,” translated by Samantha Schnee: “My land, my water, my roots, my tree trunks and flowers, / stony, feminine islet”



Macedonian writer Rumena Bužarovska’s short story, “Nectar,” translated by Will Firth: “‘Oh, I was forgetting that you write poetry. Why don’t you read me one of your ditties so I can get to be the critic?’ he flung at me caustically. . .”



An excerpt from Bulgarian writer Theodora Dimova’s Adriana, translated by Angela Rodel: “I didn't meet myself then on the beach on that August morning . . . I didn't meet myself, although I was feverishly searching.”



French Oulipo writer Anne F. Garréta’s “To sleep, perchance to dream,” translated by Daniel Levin Becker: “I’m making a noise again; they'll be telling you to have me ‘chucked out.’”



Morrocan poet Soukaina Habiballah’s “Anatomy of a Rose,” translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid: “When the rose perceived the distance / between itself and the earth, / it brought forth its thorns.”



Ugandan writer and midwife Glaydah Namukasa’s short story “My New Home,” translated by Merit Ronald Kabugo: “Every step I make revives the pain.  Yet I have to keep going. The water drum is only halfway full.”



Austrian writer Maja Haderlap’s poem, “when speech left me,” translated by Tess Lewis: “a tanker filled with words retreated / above the houses, massive, silent, / my swollen tongue twitched / in my dry mouth.”



Iraqi poet and fiction writer Faleeha Hassan’s “Mass Grave,” translated by William Maynard Hutchins: “I really used to feel that time was grasping me with both hands and stretching my body taller with each passing day.”



Peruvian writer Claudia Salazar Jiménez’s story “The Scream,” translated by Elizabeth Bryer: “Air comes out, her back curves a little, the decibels increase and cut through everyone who goes by.”



Ukrainian poet Lyudmyla Khersonska’s “[The whole soldier doesn’t suffer],” translated by Katherine E. Young: “The whole soldier shrugs off hurt— / it’s just missile systems “Hail” and ‘Beech,’ / just bullets on the wing”



Japanese artist and cartoonist Akino Kondoh’s “Noodling in New York,” translated by Jocelyne Allen: “Ever since that day, whenever I see T.J., I basically just say ‘langue de chat.”



Polish reportage writer Hanna Krall’s “I Don’t Want Much, But I Must Have It All,” translated by Ela Bittencourt: “People feel good about themselves when they lend two thousand to a pious man’s wife.”



Italian writer Gabriella Kuruvilla’s “Barbie,” translated by Jamie Richards: “I stop by the traffic light at the first intersection. And I do as it does: at red I stand there silent, at yellow I wait, at green I shake and yell.”



Tamil writer Latha’s story “There Was a Bridge in Tekka,” translated by Yamuna Rajoo and Dan Feng Tan: “Now, without even looking around, my body and my breath tell me that the bridge and the water are no more.”



An excerpt from Taiwanese writer Qiu Miaojin’s Notes of a Crocodile, translated by Bonnie Huie: “All that is neither masculine nor feminine becomes sexless and is cast into the freezing cold waters outside the line of demarcation.” 



Thai writer Duanwad Pimwana’s story “Monopoly,” translated by Mui Poopoksakul: “She left on a motorbike, riding ahead as the pickup truck crawled behind her.” 



Cuban fantasy writer Anabel Enríquez Piñeiro’s “Nothing to Declare,” translated by Hillary Gulley: “I want to see Earth . . . just long enough to wink at her . . . We’ll be passing by . . . with nothing to declare.”



An excerpt from Brazilian writer and journalist Flávia Rocha’s poem “Um País,” translated by Idra Novey: “How to explain / the heat a language exhales—Latinity / radiating through its movements?”



Korean writer Jeon Sam-hye’s “Genesis,” translated by Anton Hur: “In my story, you won’t be the far side of the moon, afraid of being found out, but the sun.” 



Italian writer and journalist Igiaba Scego’s “The True Story of ‘Faccetta Nerra,’” translated by Antony Shugaar: “And the whole matter is swallowed up in a tide of blah blah blah that often leaves us indifferent.”



Journalist Olivia Snaije’s interview with three Syrian and Iraqi women writers living in exile: Samar Yazbek, Inaam Kachachi, and Rosa Yassin Hassan: “‘A writer is always in exile,’ she said, this is what pushes him or her to write. ‘It doesn’t have to be geographical.’”


Belgian writer Griet Op de Beeck’s “What You’ve Given Up Hoping for Counts Twice as Much, She’d Discovered,” translated by Michele Hutchison: “Even when she looked in a mirror she had a smile on her face these days.”



Turkish writer and artist Naz Tansel’s graphic story “The Minibus,” translated by Canan Marasligil: “What’s that lady? Standing at attention? What do you think this is?”



Haitian writer Évelyne Trouillot’s story “Primal Needs,” translated by Paul Curtis Daw: “When they emerged from the ruins . . . into the pandemonium of reunions, grief, and horror, no one noticed that they were holding hands.”



Montenegrin poet Jovanka Uljarević’s “The Body of Your Unrest” and “Vestibule of Death,” translated by Peter Stonelake: “I do not hide my words for safekeeping / chase away the interpreters of my passions.”



Indian–born Italian writer Laila Wadia’s essay, “Listening to Silence,” translated by Sole Anatrone: “I gallop in English, I am a towering dervish in Urdu, and Hindi is my Kama Sutra.”



An excerpt from Taiwanese writer Su Wei-chen’s The March of Time, translated by Jeremy Tiang: “You hear the words, ‘Whatever kind of person you were, that’s the kind of ghost you’ll be.’” 



Peruvian writer Gabriela Wiener’s story “Three,” translated by Lucy Greaves: “I decided to subvert love, that imperfect model, the deadly trap that had hopelessly condemned me to the miseries of a double life.



Israeli graphic artist Ilana Zeffren’s self-translated graphic story “Urban Tails”: “And who says that what’s customary is what’s right?”



Further Reading

Keep Reading #WIT with These 13 Taiwanese Writers

Where Are the Women in Translation? Here Are 31 to Read Now.

August 2016 issue: Turning Points: Women Writers from Taiwan

April 2016 issue: Women Write War

October 2013 issue: African Women, Indigenous Languages

January 2009 issue: Tropical Currents: Writing by Indonesian Women



Published Mar 8, 2017   Copyright 2017 Jessie Chaffee

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