Women in Translation Month 2015: TBR Stack!

Just popping in to share the books that I will be reading as part of Women in Translation Month (WITMonth)!

WITMonth is an annual event hosted by Meytal at Biblibio each August. As she puts it, this event has the “designated purpose of encouraging readers, reviewers, translators and anyone really to take part in the dialogue about women writers in translation, as well as providing us all with a convenient outlet to explore more books by women writers in translation.”

Only about three to four percent of all books published in the U.S. each year were translated from another language, and very few of those books were written by women. It is unfortunate that the translated works that we do have disproportionately come from male authors because women have unique stories to tell and significant insights to share. I have only been consciously seeking out and reading translated works for a few years but some of my favorite discoveries were written by women.

You can find out more about WITMonth here (including how to participate) and I also suggest checking out the conversation on Twitter.

WITMonth 2015 TBRThis year, I have decided to devote my August to reading books by women writers in translation. A couple weeks ago, I made a list of all of the books written by women that were on my translation shelf and then spent a week or two narrowing it down to books available in my library system or accessible via interlibrary loan (ILL). Then I narrowed it down to those books I was most interested in reading – sooo difficult because there are so many that look great! Finally, I looked at genre/category to ensure that I had a little bit of everything that would fit my mood – literature, nonfiction, poetry, and kids’ lit.

It’s highly unlikely that I will get through all of these books but it’s nice to have a variety. My final list consisted of seven books but then I impulsively purchased one that wasn’t accessible to me.

So here is what I will be reading in August:

Blue Lorries by Radwa Ashour, tr. by Barbara Romaine (I bought this one!)

Who Ate Up All the Shinga? by Park Wan-suh, tr. by Yu Young-nan and Stephen Epstein

The Iraqi Nights by Dunya Mikhail, tr. by Kareem James Abu-Zeid

The Life of Rebecca Jones by Angharad Price, tr. by Lloyd Jones

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, tr. by Ann Goldstein

The Story of Zahra by Hanan al-Shaykh, tr. by Peter Ford

Atiya’s Journeys: A Muslim Woman from Colonial Bombay to Edwardian Britain by Atiya Fyzee, edited and translated by Siobhan Lambert-Hurley and Sunil Sharma

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren, tr. by Tiina Nunnally

Reading Notes: July 2015 Wrap-Up (part 1)

Happy August! The year is really flying by. I am here to share my thoughts on four books that I read during the first part of July. I hope to post the second half of the wrap-up next week.

July was a busy reading month for me. I read nine books! That is quite a lot for me these days. It was a direct result of having my evenings and weekends free from studying. I have enjoyed the extensive reading time and it will be tough to give it up once classes begin again later this month.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (2 stars)
I purchased this book in a bookstore at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. I had a three-hour layover and did not have any books with me. So I had a serious book craving. I chose this book from the limited English-language section because it was on my TBR and the other books either looked unappealing or I had already read them.

The Miniaturist is set in Amsterdam in the 1680s and centers on Nella, a young woman who has come to the city as an 18-year-old bride to a a wealthy trader she has met only once. As a wedding present, he gives her a miniature replica of their house. The pieces that Nella orders from the mysterious miniaturist foretell and unsettle many of the household’s secrets, leaving Nella in a vulnerable position. It took me approximately 11 hours to read this book – three in the airport and eight more on the plane. Unfortunately, I found it unsatisfying. It was only the lack of other books that kept me from abandoning it. I added it to my TBR on the basis of the miniaturist storyline. I adore miniatures (e.g. one of my favorite things to do in Chicago is visit the Thorne rooms at the Art Institute). But the miniaturist story is roughly drawn and incomplete, and really only serves as a backdrop for a plot revolving around the household’s sordid secrets. The plot was uninteresting to me – it felt very much like a soap opera with flat characters.

Ms. Marvel, vol. 2: Generation WhyMs. Marvel, vol. 2: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Jacob Wyatt (3 stars)
Ms. Marvel is a comic book series involving the adventures of Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American teenager living in Jersey City, NJ, who becomes a superhero. I read the first volume last year and really liked it, with some reservations as to the way Kamala’s family and other Muslims were portrayed. My favorite aspects – the humor and Kamala’s realistic voice – continue to shine through in this second volume. For instance, I chuckled out loud when Wolverine made a guest appearance – Kamala’s reaction was gold.

That said, my reservations with the first volume weren’t fully addressed. There is a nice moment where Kamala talks to the imam at her mosque, who gives her some great advice that is directly applicable to her superhero problems. However, Kamala’s family continues to feel two-dimensional to me. We haven’t spent enough time with them to move past the stereotypes. Ms. Marvel also needs a new villain. I find The Inventor kind of laughable. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I can’t seem to get interested in the actual crime-fighting plots. Volume three is out now but I’m not sure if I will continue with the series.

Weapons of Mass Diplomacy by Abel Lanzac and Christophe Blain, tr. by Edward Gauvin (4.5 stars)
weapons-diplomacyAbel Lanzac is really Antonin Baudry, a French diplomat who has worked in various positions in the French government. This graphic novel is a fictional account of Baudry’s experiences working in the Office of Foreign Affairs for Minister Dominique de Villepin shortly after 9/11 and during the ramp-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Remember that time? When suddenly the U.S. Capitol cafeterias began serving “freedom fries” instead of “French fries” as a response to French opposition to the Iraq war?

So I don’t know much anything about French politics but this book provides some great insight into what was going on across the ocean at that time. It’s also incredibly funny and well-drawn. It reminds me quite a bit of The West Wing (all of the political wrangling and huge egos) with a sprinkle of Spaceman Spiff antics from Calvin and Hobbes (particularly stylistically in Blain’s drawings).

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (3 stars)
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieThis very short book was adapted from Adichie’s popular TED talk of the same name. I had not seen or listened to the talk before reading the book. The book is essentially Adichie’s explanation of what feminism means in the 21st century. It was interesting and I especially liked her thoughts on the “feminist” versus “humanist” discussion. Ultimately, however, this book felt very basic to me. Rather than a simple adaptation, I would have liked to see Adichie delve more deeply on topics that she really only touched on lightly in the TED talk. I was expecting *more* but I suppose there is only so much one can do in 48 pages.

Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think of them?

Library Loot: July 2015

Library Loot

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. 

I never stopped reading and watching your Library Loot posts and videos during my absence here, and I’ve missed sharing my own loot with you. So I am excited to be back here sharing once again! I adore my public library system and it has been one of the best constants in my topsy-turvy life in the past few years. And now I work less than a block from a great library branch. In Ramadan, I spent many of my lunch breaks there, and I’m still averaging about three visits a week. I probably need to calm down on the library obsession, right? Visiting the same branch twice or three different branches in one day might be a little much. *contented sigh*

Despite my numerous library visits, this round-up only includes the books that I’ve accumulated and plan on reading before August. I hope to devote most – if not all – of my reading time in August to women authors in translation. Thus, due to shortness of time, I’ve tried to keep my pile small.

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I’m Back! (maybe…)

Hello, hello! It has been ages since I posted here at the blog. Four years (!!!), apart from the halfhearted attempt I made in early 2014. Despite the many moons I’ve been away, I’ve missed book blogging and connecting with like-minded bookworms. I’ve thought about returning several times but was unable to find the time to do so.

Let’s start with a life update, which intertwines naturally with a reading update. Four years ago was 2011, the year after I graduated from grad school and received my professional degree. Although I began my job search while I was still in school, 2011 was the year when the repercussions of the lagging economy and the woes of my particular industry hit home for me. From 2011 and onward, I spent a great deal of time in menial contract positions while looking for permanent, full-time work. There were many “droughts” in between the contract positions. While this time wasn’t so great for my mental health, I did have a lot of time to read and I used books as an escape.

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