Baby doll

‘Baby Doll’ to ‘Hellfire’: 8 Recommendations for Women’s Month in Translation

The chosen books showcase the work of female translators of authors from India and beyond, including novels, short stories, poetry and memoirs.

August has been declared Women in translation Month by Meytal Radzinski, a researcher who took it upon herself to ask why there were so few female authors published in translation. A study quickly revealed that only 26% of translated books were written by women.

Women in Translation Month, then had two simple goals: 1. Increase dialogue and discussion about women writers in translation 2. Read more books written by women in translation

At Champaca, we believe in wide and thoughtful reading, and make sure to stock translations of all regional languages ​​of India and literature and non-fiction by female-identified authors. The books we have chosen here highlight the work of female translators of authors from India and beyond, including novels, short stories, poetry and memoirs.

Greenengage Tree Lighting through Shookofeh Azar, translated from Farsi

The novel is set in the decades following the 1979 Islamic Revolution under Ayatollah Khomeini. The story is about a family of five: Hushang, Roza, Beeta, Sohrab and Bahar. The family’s house is burned down by a zealous mob, and with it their books, precious objects and aspirations. They leave Tehran and arrive in a small remote village called Razan, far from the tyranny of the new regime. They live in a small grove next to a forest and a greengage tree (a fruit tree with local green plums in Iran). We hear of the passing years of Bahar, the chronicler of the family’s misfortunes and Iran’s brutal destruction of its heritage and culture. Join us on August 21 for a conversation with the author, Shokoofeh Azar, on YouTube Live!

Hellfire through Leesa Gazi, translated from Bengali by Shabnam Nadiya

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Two young girls, Lovely and Beauty, go to play on the roof of their house without the permission of their mother, Farida Khanam. Farida is deeply upset and forces them to live indoors for decades, interacting only with servants and an uncaring father. When Lovely is forty, her mother lets her go out on her birthday. The novel is about this sudden exit and Lovely’s memories of her past and her experience of the present in a noisy world outside the home. Lovely’s bright birthday morning full of possibilities turns into a night full of foreboding and secrets. You can hear Leesa Gazi talking to Shabnam Nadiya here.

chabari through Vibhavari Shirurkar, translated from Marathi by Yashodhara Deshpande Maitra

Shabari comes from a middle-class savarna family in Pune in the mid-1950s. She chooses the rebellious act of marrying Abhiram of her choice while continuing to support her parents in her work. Shabari faces daily humiliation from her husband, who is unsupportive of her parenting approach, and her parents, who resent her work lifestyle. She ends up finding a break in her life by deciding to go on a pilgrimage even though she is an atheist. During this journey, Shabari struggles to reflect on her decisions, be it marriage, children, work and travels, and decides that her movements in life are largely motivated by self-interest. The novel is an insightful work of literature about the transitions and shifting gender equations of post-independence time.

Doll through Gracy, translated from Malayalam by Fathima EV

This book is a carefully chosen set of 36 short stories from a lifetime of writing by renowned writer Gracy. Characters and plots often revolve around the inner world of women, their desires, and their encounters with the machinations and gaze of the world of men. In Cat, the narrator is convinced that his wife who has “cat’s eyes” is in fact a cat pregnant with a tabby cat prowling the house. The story is full of striking images and sudden narrative turns. In Illusory Visions, a woman encounters coffins, opens them, and talks with her dead parents, bickering and fighting with them, until she is reprimanded by her dead mother for disrespecting them. Gracy’s writing is full of strangeness, relentless in its questions about contemporary society in Kerala.

Season of Shadow through Leonora Miano, translated from French by Gila Walker

One night, a village is ravaged by fire and twelve men disappear. The elders prevent the village chief from sending a search party, and he finds himself unable to carry out his duties as chief, even as his brother’s plans to usurp power are underway. The village’s elderly midwife wonders if the community’s response to the tragedy has disregarded her long-cherished ideals. Soon, a dark, mysterious shadow appears over the abode of the mothers of the missing men who are banished to mourn for themselves. What follows is a complex web of personal struggles to make sense of the calamity and to protect the community and what it holds dear. Set in what is now Cameroon, the story shows how the life of a small community was indelibly altered by the early intrusions of the transatlantic slave trade into sub-Saharan Africa.

The days of abandonment through Elena Ferrante, translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein

Olga descends into chaos when her marriage suddenly and violently ends. As she tries to hold her own life, with a faltering career and two children, she dwells on her past and her memories, looking for signs of abandonment. She becomes indifferent to the events surrounding her, discovering a frank fatigue. It takes a momentous event involving a dog and a neighbor’s cello to shake her back into reality and once again seek to pull herself together for the future.

Wild Words: Four Tamil Poets through Malathi Maitri, Salma, Kunti Revathi and Sukhirtharani and translated from Tamil by Lakshmi Holmström

These poems by modern Tamil poets are about daily life and emotions, sexuality and rejection of patriarchy. Here are poems about feminism, gender roles, and the intersections of gender and caste. Challenging a conception of the Tamil woman as ‘modest’ and ‘fearful’, these poems testify to outspokenness and a questioning of so-called societal ‘rules’. The poets are deeply thoughtful, categorical and punitive, giving us smooth and easy poetry.

The soul of a woman through Isabel Allende, translated from Spanish by the author

In this thesis, Isabel Allende translates her own book from Spanish into English. She recounts her journey as a feminist, a journey she says began when she was five years old in Chile, where she and her siblings were raised by a single mother. She reflects on her experience growing up in the first wave of feminism, the women she admires, her three marriages, and her encounters with the patriarchy in ways big and small: in her daily life and in the world at large. Conversational, thoughtful, and warm, Allende writes about the personal and the political.

Champaca Bookstore, Café and Library is an independent women-run bookstore and café. The team chooses the books carefully and tries to include a whole world of voices and stories, across time, place and experience. They love to present writing on nature, science, cross-genre reflections on gender and caste and history, translations and science fiction. Go to their bookstore to discover other books.