Women in Translation readathon

READ THE WORLD – Ecuador: On Friday Night by Luz Argentina Chiriboga

Translated by Paulette A. Ramsay and Anne-Maria Bankay.

Susana grows up with her parents living next door to the Manns family – Susana and her parents are Black, the Manns are white. She spent her childhood playing with Jamie and Margarita next door and as she becomes a young woman, she’s unaware of how their father, Marvin, becomes infatuated with her.

I think On Friday Night is one of those books that would’ve worked better for me as an audiobook. That’s mainly down to how this book was written. It was written in both the first and third person and it took me a long time to realise the when it was in first person it was from Susana’s point of view. There’s no chapters or line breaks or anything to help show when the narrative has gone from one character’s point of view to another; it could change from one paragraph to the next. This made it difficult to follow to begin with, especially as there was no blurb on my copy of On Friday Night so I had no idea what the story could be about before starting it.

All I knew before starting On Friday Night was the author Luz Argentina Chiriboga is known for writing about the Afro-Hispanic cultural identity and that certainly came into play in this book. Susana’s family comes from a working-class background but Susana is smart and is able to go to university and get a job working at the bank where Marvin Manns is the manager. The Manns are Hispanic and much more affluent. There’s a blurring of the lines when Susana, Jamie, and Margarita are children as they just like having neighbours to play with but as they grow older there’s more frequent comments about Susana being Black, even from Margarita.

This cultural and class divide is even stronger once Marvin makes his feelings about Susana known. Their whole romance and situation just felt very messy to me. He’s at least thirty years older than her, she’s the same age as his children so any respect for her as a mother figure would be impossible to find, and while he is besotted with her, he also is quick to believe other people’s lies about her. I don’t know if it was down to the story, the writing, my brain or a combination of all three but at times I really didn’t understand what was going on with some characters motivations and choices. At one point Susana and Marvin break up and I was really unsure how they ended up back together as he never seemed to apologise for his accusations.

Besides from the “love story” between Marvin and Susana there’s the history of their parents that’s mentioned – again without any type of indication that we’re going to suddenly go into the past – and Susana’s first love who is a conman. Susana is so naïve in many ways and it can be frustrating to see how she reacts to different situations. I mean, at one point she truly seems to believe she could be a mother to Jamie and Margarita when she’s the same age as Jamie and maybe a year or two younger than Margarita.

The writing style in On Friday Night really didn’t really work for me but once I’d got my head around it, the story was fairly easy to follow – even if the point of view changes still got me every now and then. This all made a 150-page book take me longer to read than it should. If there had been line breaks or anything to make the reading experience easier, I probably would’ve enjoyed the story more. Though the whole relationship dynamic between Susana and Marvin still often made me feel uncomfortable.

Women in Translation Month 2021 TBR

August is Women in Translation Month, which was started by blogger Meytal Radzinski, and a readathon that I like to take part in. As well as dedicating the whole month to reading books by women in translation there’s also a specific readathon hosted by Jennifer from Insert Literary Pun Here, Matthew Sciarappa and Kendra Winchester over on YouTube.

The Women in Translation readathon is a weeklong from Saturday 14th – Friday 20th August (midnight-midnight in your time zone) and there’s two prompts and a group read. The group read is Minor Detail by Adania Shibli (translated from Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette) and the prompts are:

  • Read something that’s not a novel – poetry, an essay, manga, short stories, non-fiction, whatever as long as it’s not a novel
  • Read something that was in a language that is new to you – if you do tend to read translated works then think of a language you haven’t read from for a number of years or just have read very few works from that language.

I’d already picked out the books on my TBR that were from women in translation before the prompts were announced, so while all these books are novels, I could maybe complete the “new to you language” prompt as I very rarely read works from Japan and I believe A Spare Life is translated from Macedonian and I don’t think I’ve yet to read anything that was originally in that language.

All these books aren’t just for the weeklong readathon but are instead what I plan to hopefully read during the whole month of August. I’m slowly getting out of my year-long slump and hopefully this gives me a little extra push.

The Beast Player and The Beast Warrior by Nahoko Uehashi, translated by Cathy Hirano
These two were cover buys a couple of months ago and how could I not when they are so gorgeous! This is a YA duology about a girl who discovers she can talk to the huge, majestical beasts of her world and becomes entangled in politics and war as she tries to keep herself and the beasts safe.

The Madwoman of Serrano by Dina Salústio, translated by Jethro Soutar
This is one of the books where it seems difficult to summarise in a couple of sentences. The titular character lives in an isolated village where she appears to babble nonsense but maybe she tells the future especially when the life of a man from the village and the businesswoman who he raised when she was a little girl become connected to the fate of their home.

The Madwoman of Serrano was both the first novel by a female author to be published in Cape Verde and the first to be translated into English.

A Spare Life by Lidija Dimkovska, translated by Christina E. Kramer
Starting in 1984 in communist Yugoslavia, A Spare Life is the story of twins Zlata and Srebra who are conjoined at their heads from their childhood to young adults as they try to decide whether to go through with the dangerous surgery to separate them.

On Friday Night by Luz Argentina Chiriboga, translated by Paulette A. Ramsay and Anne-Maria Bankay
Honestly, I don’t know what this book is about as the back cover is all about the two translators and doesn’t have a blurb. Internet searches tell me that Luz Argentina Chiriboga is known for writing about women and the challenges they face as well as Afro-Hispanic cultural identity so I expect those themes may be in this book.

The Fury and Cries of Women by Angèle Rawiri, translated by Sara Hanaburgh
I have the ebook of this and I believe The Fury and Cries of Women follows Emilienne’s life through her university studies, marriage, children, work, and how she tries to search for what feminism means to her while dealing with cultural expectations and the taboos of sex and motherhood.Angèle Rawiri is Gabon’s first female novelist.

That’s six books written by women in translation that I’d ideally like to read next month. While I do appear to be coming out of my reading slump if I can read at least three of these I’ll be happy. Plus, four of these books are for my Read the World Project which is always helpful.

Are you going to try and read any books from women in translation in August? If you’d like any recommendations then be sure to check out @WITreadathon and @Read_WIT on Twitter.

Women in Translation Readathon TBR

If you didn’t know, August is Women In Translation month, celebrating women writers from across the world who have been translated from their original language. Now I was planning to read more books by women this month in general, but then I heard about the Women In Translation Readathon which is being hosted by Matthew Sciarappa, Kendra Winchester and Insert Literary Pun Here on YouTube, and it gave me an extra bit of motivation.

The readathon is the last week of August and starts midnight wherever the world you are at midnight on Saturday 25th August and finishes 11:59pm on Friday 31st August. I am going to be on holiday at the start of this readathon (I’m going to Bucharest with friends for a long weekend) so I’m not sure how much reading I’ll be doing then but I’ll definitely try and fit a book or two in my hand luggage-sized suitcase.

With this readathon there are some prompts that you can try and make your books fit into if you wish and they are as follows:

1. Read something that is not a novel
2. Read a book about childhood
3. Read a book with red on the cover
4. Read a text translated from a language that you haven’t read a text translated from before

Then there’s two bonus prompts:
1. Read a book that was translated posthumously
2. Read a text written by a Nobel Laureate

And a double bonus prompt is:
Read texts that were also translated by women translators

I’ve picked out three books for this readathon, they’re the only unread books from women in translation I have to be honest, and if I read all of them during the readathon, I’ll complete four out of the seven challenges.

Negative Space by Luljeta Lleshanaku, translated by Ani Gjika.
Thirty Days by Annelies Verbeke, translated by Liz Waters.
La Bastarda by Trifonia Melibea Obono, translated by Lawrence Schimel.

Negative Space and Thirty Days are translated from Albanian and Dutch, two languages I haven’t read from before. Negative Space also fits the “read something that is not a novel” as it’s a poetry collection and Thirty Days has some red on the cover (you cant’t really see it in the picture but the text is red). Negative Space and Thirty Days are translated by women translators too.

Are you going to take part in the Women in Translation readathon? Or are you reading more books translated from women in general this month? I’d love to hear of any recommendations you might have.