Women in Translation Memoirs

WIT Memoir

This is my third WIT Month since I’ve been doing Memoir Monday and it’s already getting harder to find memoir to read for this month. Surely they are out there, perhaps I’m not looking in the right places.

The year that I began Memoir Monday, I made the mistake of starting it only a few weeks before WIT Month began and felt like I was in a time crunch to get in the books that I had found. I ended up finishing two memoirs in time and showcasing two others. I read I, Rigoberta and My Invented Country that year. Both were amazing. Rigoberta Manchu is a Nobel Peace Laureate and this book was a big part of making that happen. It exposed the living conditions of indigenous people of Guatemala.

Contrastly, My Invented Country is the way Isabel Allende remembers Chile after years of living in the US. She wrote it in Spanish and it was later translated into English even though she was living in the US at the time, if I recall the book correctly. One of the things I remember really standing out about that book was the later understanding of the things our mothers gave up or gave in to that gave us more rights or opportunities and the way daughters never appreciate it until much later.

I had showcased The Confessions of Lady Nijo, which I still can’t get my hands on. Well, I suppose I could and will one day, but it’s only available in physical form and that’s not something I’m ready for right now. I’ve been able to read so much more since I had digital and audio copies of books. I also showcased The Girl From the Metropol Hotel that year but read it the following year. It was a good book about growing up in Russia on the wrong side of everything.

Last year I also read The Home That Was Our Country, In Other Words, and The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. The first one is about Syria and a woman who grew up in the US but went back to Damascus for her grandmother’s house. It contains a beautiful history of Syria with the perspective of the colonized rather than the colonizer that we need to hear more often in the US. It’s a transliteration and not a translation, but I counted it. The second one is from Jhumpa Lahiri and originally written in Italian. It’s a memoir of her learning the language and then moving to Italy. The last one is one of the classics of both Japanese literature and women in translation. Sei Shonagon was a part of court life in the eleventh century and wrote the book as kind of a diary that was meant to be shared. I didn’t know before reading The Pillow Book, but it was kind of a thing at the time and most commonly done by women.

This year, my plan is to read The Crossing, which is also about Syria and crossing into that country during the revolution over the last decade; Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter which is the memoir of Simone de Beauvior; and F, which is about Hu Feng’s years in prison and her search for and care for her husband whose imprisonment lasted longer than hers.

Sometimes my plans don’t work out for these things, but we’ll see how it goes. Is anyone else participating in WIT Month? Feel free to add a link to any reviews of WIT memoirs in the comments!!

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