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9 Translated Books by Black Women Writers to Read This #WITMonth

By Words Without Borders

This #WITMonth, we're spotlighting books by some of our favorite Black women writers in translation. From Haiti and Cabo Verde, Italy and Equatorial Guinea, the books below span continents and historical eras as they explore themes as diverse as queerness, memory, race, and immigration. We hope that this selection, which is by no means exhaustive, will enrich your reading list this Women in Translation Month and beyond.

1. Memory at Bay by Évelyne Trouillot

Winner of the prestigious Prix Carbet, Memory at Bay, written by Évelyne Trouillot and translated from French by Paul Curtis Daw, tells the story of two women living under a dictatorship much like Haiti's Duvalier regime. Trouillot's first novel, The Infamous Rosalie, is also available in English in M. A. Salvodon’s translation. You can read more of her fiction, as well as an interview with her, on Words Without Borders.


2. Beyond Babylon by Igiaba Scego

A 2018 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant recipient, Igiaba Scego's Beyond Babylon, translated from Italian by Aaron Robertson, spans several continents to trace the lives and histories of two half-sisters who meet by chance in Tunisia. Scego's novel Adua, about a Somali immigrant to Italy, is also available in Jamie Richards's English translation. For more from Scego, read “The True Story of ‘Faccetta Negra,’” an essay about blackness in Italy translated by Antony Shugaar


3. The Belly of the Atlantic by Fatou Diome

In The Belly of the Atlantic, translated from French by Ros Schwartz and Lulu Norman, Senegalese author Fatou Diome chronicles the fraught relationship of Salie, a successful immigrant living in France, and her brother, Madické, who has stayed behind in Senegal. Read an excerpt of the novel here.


4. La Bastarda by Trifonia Melibea Obono

Trifonia Melibea Obono's La Bastarda, the first book by a woman from Equatorial Guinea to be published in English, follows a teenager as she discovers her sexuality and defies her village’s oppressive norms. Read an excerpt of the novel, translated from Spanish by Lawrence Schimel, on WWB.


5. That Hair by Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida

Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida's autobiographical novel That Hair, translated from Portuguese by WWB Editor Eric M. B. Becker, draws on childhood memories and a family history tied to both Africa and Europe to explore questions of race, identity, and colonialism. Read her essay “Three Fires" here.


6. Aya: Life in Yop City by Marguerite Abouet

Marguerite Abouet's graphic novels Aya: Life in Yop City and Aya: Love in Yop City, illustrated by Clément Oubrerie and translated from French by Helge Dascher, are inspired by her own experience growing up in Ivory Coast. Read an excerpt from Aya on WWB.


7. The Madwoman of Serrano by Dina Salústio 

The first novel by a female Cabo Verdean author to be published in English, The Madwoman of Serranotranslated from Portuguese by Jethro Soutar, won the 2018 English PEN Award as well as several prestigious Cabo Verdean literary prizes. Read an excerpt of Dina Salústio's novel Veromar on WWB.


8. The First Wife: A Tale of Polygamy by Paulina Chiziane

In The First Wife: A Tale of Polygamytranslated from Portuguese by David Brookshaw, Mozambican author Paulina Chiziane tells the story of a woman who takes action after discovering that her husband has been unfaithful. Read a review of the book here.


9. Moonbath by Yanick Lahens

From one of Haiti's most prominent authors, Moonbath, translated from French by Emily Gogolak, won the 2014 Prix Fémina and the 2015 French Voices Award. For more from Yanick Lahens, read this essay about the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, translated by David Ball and Nicole Ball.


Looking for more women in translation? Check out the following articles:

An Interview with Évelyne Trouillot

For International Women's Day, 9 Translated Books by Women to Read in 2020

Women Translating the Classics: An Interview with Emily Wilson, Sholeh Wolpé, and Arshia Sattar


Disclosure: Words Without Borders is an affiliate of and will earn a commission if you use the links above to make a purchase.


Published Aug 18, 2020   Copyright 2020 Words Without Borders

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