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International Women Writers and Translators Who Press for Progress

By Words Without Borders

In celebration of International Women’s Day, meet women writers and translators from around the world who are pressing for progress through their activism and their literature.

Writing Outside the Mainstream: Jeon Sam-hye

“I’m a believer in writing stories that only I can write . . . In my work, I talk about single-parent families a lot, or orphans. This is outside the mainstream. But I want to show that these people exist, that they’re sitting right next to you.”

—Korean writer Jeon Sam-hye speaks with translator Anton Hur about her commitment to writing narratives that bring marginalized communities to the forefront.


Hatred, Silence, Violence, and Kafkaesque Institutions: Dragoslava Barzut

“I didn’t want to see myself as a lesbian who was ashamed of her sexual identity, as a lesbian who didn’t dare to utter, portray, or embody that word . . . who would silence herself. I wanted to transform that silence into action. Hence activism.”

Dragoslava Barzut speaks with translator Paula Gordon about her refusal to remain silent following a hate crime.


Women Translating Women: Julia Sanches, Jennifer Croft, Bonnie Huie, and Emma Ramadan

“In order to publish more women, especially in translation, we have to read more responsibly, publish more responsibly . . . and treat women’s writing as writing, full stop.” 

Julia SanchesJennifer Croft, Bonnie Huie, and Emma Ramadan speak with Allison Merola about their efforts to promote literary works by women from around the world.


In Monrovia, Liberia with Wayétu Moore

“I’ve always been inspired by the romance of Liberia’s cultural hybridity . . . I wanted to write about that.”

Wayétu Moore, founder of One Moore Book—a publisher of multicultural children’s books aimed at readers in countries with low literacy rates—speaks with Nathalie Handal about finding inspiration in her hometown of Monrovia, Liberia.


On Angoulême and Control: Julie Maroh

“I discovered the list and saw that there was not a single woman among the thirty nominees listed . . . Unable to let this injustice stand, we started to organize.”

Julie Maroh writes about speaking out against sexism in the comics world (translated by Matt Madden). 


Building a New World: Valeria Luiselli

“I learned English, I learned the unfathomable language of childhood friendships and enmities, the vicious body language of school bus survival, the language of lies, exaggerations, and omissions, the language of rules and breaking rules, the language of foreigners and foreignness, the language of belonging and becoming.”

​—Valeria Luiselli explores the personal and political nature of language.


Reflections on the President’s Discourse: Basma Abdel Aziz

“Never has he specified who these ‘evildoers’ might be, however. The ambiguity of the word strips his speech of credibility.”

—Egyptian writer Basma Abdel Aziz considers the consequences of coarse rhetoric in politics (tranlated by Elisabeth Jaquette).


Women in Translation: Margaret Carson and Alta L. Price

“It isn’t enough to be able to name one or two women in translation—we’ll know we’re making progress when readers, reviewers, editors, and publishers can name three, four, five, or more women who’ve recently been published in translation.”

—Women in Translation Tumblr founders Margaret Carson and Alta Price discuss their dedication to fostering greater gender parity in literary translation.


Challenging Stereotypes: Shih Chiung-Yu

“In East Asian societies a woman’s uterus has always been seen as a tool to produce a male heir, so much so that when a girl was born, her parents were often disappointed . . . I wrote Wedding in Autumn with women’s issues in mind.”

Shih Chiung-Yu speaks with translator Darryl Sterk about challenging societal expectations and gender stereotypes in her work.


Writing Like Breathing: Dacia Maraini

“Women writers, even the most famous, often disappear with their deaths . . . It’s rare, very rare, for a woman to become a literary model for future generations. Usually she simply becomes ‘forgotten.’”

—Italian feminist writer Dacia Maraini speaks with Jessie Chaffee about the erasure of women writers from the canon.


“A lot more connected, a lot less hopeless”: María Cristina Hall

“As they read literature in many varieties of Spanish, from the formal to the colloquial, students could see that ‘their language is also considered literary,’ and that their experiences were worthy of memorializing in literature.”

—Nadia Kalman writes about María Cristina Hall’s work supporting deportees in Mexico through literature.


Queerying Translation: B.J. Epstein

“It’s time for LGBTQ texts to be translated and for those translations to be analyzed, and it’s time for translators to consider what it might mean to translate LGBTQ texts and authors.”

—Translator, editor, and writer B.J. Epstein discusses her commitment to making “the invisible visible” in the translation of queer texts.

Published Mar 8, 2018   Copyright 2018 Words Without Borders

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