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8 books for Women in Translation Month

August is Women in Translation Month, a month dedicated to recognising women’s writing translated into English. I read several languages, but not all of them as well as I would like, and I often feel like I’m missing out on incredible writing just because it happens to be in a language I don’t know. In an ideal universe I would be equally fluent in any language I fancy, and devour beautiful, powerful, striking fiction from all over the world.But alas, I’m not the polyglot I would like to be, and so reading books in translation is the next-best thing. Here I share with you some of the titles which I’ve read in the past year and a couple of others which I included just because.Prayers For the Stolen, Jennifer Clement, translated by Jennifer Clement:
Told through the eyes of Ladydi, a sixteen-year-old girl living in rural southern Mexico, in a community living under the shadow of cartels. The menfolk in her tiny village have mostly fled to the US and the women disguise their young daughte…
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Mystery & Memory in 'When Secrets Set Sail' – Sita Brahmachari

I was so excited to receive a copy of this book to review; it was a perfect book to read for South Asian Heritage Month, as it delves into a history that many of us know nothing about. Imtiaz has been adopted by the Joseph family, who live in an interesting house consisting of a community hub for refugees on the ground floor called the Hearth, and a whimsical home on the 'Top Deck', designed like a ship. She isn’t sure what to make of her new sister, Usha, who seems distracted and withdrawn after the death of her grandmother, Kali Ma. But when their Hearth and home are threatened by locals who don’t want refugees in the area, the two girls are drawn into a journey to uncover the hidden history of the house - and of the ayahs of long ago who once took refuge there.
In this middle-grade historical mystery with a sprinkling of the supernatural, Sita Brahmachari takes you on a wonderful odyssey of secrets, unravelling mysteries of the past and bringing forgotten histories to light.…

More Memories of 1971: Translated Excerpts

For South Asian Heritage Month I'm sharing more translated extracts from Jahanara Imam's memoirs of the 1971 Bangladesh Independence War, Ekattorer Dinguli. The translation is my own.I chose these excerpts because I love the way Imam has captured the personalities of Niranjan and Chaitanya - the Hindu handymen she is sheltering and employing in her house.It alsoalludes to the perils of living in a country under occupation and at war, and the particular fear felt by the Hindu population of Dhaka at the time. I like the way these two entries show how the independence struggle united Bangladeshis across class and creed, while also showing the conflicts with other ethnic groups; it's worth remembering that East Pakistan / Bangladesh is often the forgotten casualty of the 1947 Partition, being left with its own legacy of religious and ethnic conflict. NB: a 'Sten' is a type of rifle.'Muktijuddha', referred to here as 'Mukti' for short - freedom fighterTu…

Racism & Reconciliation in 'Your House Will Pay': Review

A tautly woven story of the racial tensions between black and Korean communities in LA in the early '90s and up to the present day. Based on the true story of the killing of 15 year-old Latasha Harlins.


Author Steph Cha tells a balanced, nuanced story about growing up with racial prejudice and how we reconcile our relationships with the people we love, when they hold problematic beliefs. Reading this book in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests this year gave it an added urgency for me as I felt so much of it was still relevant. Anti-black racism within other non-white communities isn't often discussed or acknowledged, but people have begun having those conversations recently, and so I thought this book was particularly timely. The descriptions in the book of people chanting 'I can't breathe' and 'say their names', at vigils and protests for victims of police shootings, might have felt prescient if it weren't for the fact that it just highlighted …

Reading to Remember Britain's Black Armed Forces

This week is Armed Forces Week, ending in Armed Forces Day on 27th June. But Google it and the images that come up are overwhelmingly of white service personnel.
The past few weeks has seen the Black Lives Matter movement gain momentum, with demonstrations and protests against the whitewashing of Britain’s colonial past, the silencing of Black voices, continued institutional racism, and in the literary world, a much-needed conversation about the erasure of black, Asian and ethnic minority voices in history and literature.Countering this movement are assertions that the removal of statues commemorating certain figures is an attempt to “rewrite” our history. But we can’t claim to be concerned over rewriting history so long as we have a selective memory regarding that history.
 Image Courtesy: IWMI started researching for this blog post in an attempt to address that selective memory in the spirit of anti-racism, and to shine a light on forgotten voices and experiences. What I was looking f…

8 books to read for World Refugee Day

Adults1.Devotion, Louisa Young
Set in Italy and Britain in the 1930s, as Tom, Kitty, Nadine and Riley spend the summers with their friends in Rome. It’s an idyllic place and time, and Tom finds himself falling in love with Nenna. Then fascism rears its ugly head, and worryingly, Nenna’s father Aldo seems to be in agreement with Mussolini. Nadine’s Jewish background means the family must cut their summer short and return to England. But Tom is determined not to leave without Nenna. The way Young traced the progression from bog-standard populism to out-and-out fascist antisemitism is cleverly done and frankly terrifying. Read with heart in mouth.2.Last Train to Istanbul, Ayse Kulin
The little-known story of how during the Holocaust, the Turkish government helped its Jewish citizens flee from Europe and welcomed them back to Turkey, by supplying them with fake Muslim or Christian identities and chartering a train to carry them home. Told from the point of view of Turkish Muslim Selva, who …

Self-Discovery & Strength in Sisterhood

Balli Kaur Jaswal’s novel follows three sisters on a road trip across India to complete their late mother’s last rites. In order to do this, the three of them have had to press pause on their own personal issues and focus on mending their fraught relationships with each other.Jaswal’s writing is full of humour and warmth, delivering a narrative that’s both funny and poignant. The three sisters’ characters are distinctly drawn, from the bossy-but-capable Rajni, to the reserved Shireen to hot-mess Jezmeen. The narrative is split between the viewpoints of the sisters, which is useful for gaining an insight into their individual personal problems and for contrasting this against how each sister is seen by the others. What Jaswal does well in this book is to show how it’s possible for adult siblings’ relationships to fragment under the pressure of other relationships – marriages, children, careers all take their toll. But at the same time, there is always a sense that our siblings are the …