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7 Issues of International Women’s Writing to Read on #IWD2021

By Words Without Borders

Happy International Women's Day! In celebration of this special day, we've selected seven outstanding issues of women's writing in translation from the WWB archives. Featuring work from Sudan, Hungary, Taiwan, Tunisia, China, and more, these issues offer a glimpse of the range and diversity of contemporary women's writing from around the globe.

1. Coming Into Focus: Sudanese Women Writers

Image: Yasmeen Abdullah, “The Butterfly Effect.” By arrangement with the artist.​

Very little writing from Sudan is translated into English, and even less of it is written by women. In this issue, guest editor Sawad Hussain introduces five female Sudanese novelists you should know, all of whom made their English-language debut in WWB.

Where to start: Zeinab Belail’s “Al-Nar Street,” translated from Arabic by Nesrin Amin. For even more women writers, check out this issue's accompanying feature, "Writing by Afghan Women."


2. Against the Canon: Urdu Feminist Writing

Image: Farazeh SyedAttire (cropped), acrylic on canvas, 4 x 5 ft, 2016. By arrangement with the artist. ​

In the contextual introduction to this issue, guest editor Haider Shahbaz and collaborators write, "A dispiriting narrowness has defined canons of Urdu feminist writing from previous decades." This issue, by contrast, seeks to expand the definition of Urdu feminist writing and to bring new voices into the conversation.

Where to start: Khalida Hussain’s dark short story “Enemy,” translated from Urdu by Haider Shahbaz. Then, take a look at the issue's accompanying feature of life writing by women in Arabic.


3. Charged with Humanity: Six Hungarian Women Writers

Image: Maria Chilf, "Homesickness for an Unknown Landscape" (detail), 2009, mixed technique, chemical protective clothing, shoes, gloves, plastic, wood. Courtesy of the artist and VILTIN Galéria.

In this issue, guest editors Ágnes Orzóy and Erika Mihálycsa present six Hungarian women writers whose work challenges the prevailing literary discourse and seeks to provide space for voices seldom represented in Hungarian literature.

Where to start: Réka Mán-Várhegyi’s absurdist short story involving Lionel Messi, “Woman Striker Has Killer Left Foot,” translated from Hungarian by Owen Good. Read it now.


4. Under a Different Light: Writing by Tunisian Women

Image: Houda Ghorbel, “Push with me . . . my voice is coiled.” Photo by Wadi Mhiri.

Guest editor Cécile Oumhani introduces this issue of writing by Tunisian women in the wake of the Arab Spring. In fiction and poetry translated from French and Arabic, these authors grapple with the past and consider Tunisia's post-revolution future.

Where to start: “Game of Ribbons,” a story about freedom of dress by Emna Belhaj Yahia, translated from French by Emma Ramadan. Read it now.


5. Turning Points: Women Writers from Taiwan

Image: Eleen Lin, “Oracle”, 2015, 105 x 84 in., Watercolor, gouache, acrylic, ink, lead, pastel, and charcoal on paper. © Eleen Lin. Courtesy of the artist.

Most of the Taiwanese writers whose work has been translated into English, writes guest editor Jeremy Tiang, have been men. This issue, featuring poetry, fiction, and drama by six Taiwanese women writers, seeks to counter that trend.

Where to start: An excerpt from Qiu Miaojin’s cult classic Notes from a Crocodile, translated from Chinese by Bonnie Huie. Read it now.


6. Women Write War

Image: Mary Sibande, "Everything is not lost,” 2011 Archival pigment print (Edition of 10) 87x113 cm Courtesy of Mary Sibande and Gallery MOMO.

Guest editor Eliza Griswold writes, "Since Odysseus paddled home to Ithaca, most of the world’s great war stories have belonged to men." In this issue, it is women, instead, who narrate war, exploring armed conflicts around the globe through poetry, prose, and drama.

Where to start: Igiaba Scego's essay "The True Story of 'Faccetta Nera,'" translated from Italian by Anthony Shugaar, about the racist legacy of a fascist anthem. Read it now.


7. Olympic Voices from China

Photo by Sam Balye on Unsplash

In 2008, to coincide with the Beijing Olympics, guest editor Hu Ying compiled a selection of writing by contemporary Chinese women writers. In fiction and nonfiction, these writers center women's experiences and address themes including love, sex work, and pregnancy.

Where to start: Zhao Ying's short story "Red Bean Sticky Cakes and Running," translated from Chinese by Victoria Hsieh. Read it now.

Related Reading:

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

Tang Fei on Sexism and Science Fiction

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

Published Mar 8, 2021   Copyright 2021 Words Without Borders

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