A Look Back: Women in Translation Month 2021

As every year during Women in Translation Month (#WiTMonth), we take a moment to reflect on the state of literature written by women in Arabic and its translation:

We ran poetry by established and emerging poets — and talked about how women’s poetry in Arabic has changed since the ’90s — published a short story from Iraq, rounded up lists of short stories available online, spoke to writers and scholars, and focused our “Lit & Found” feature on work by women. This and more below:


Women in Translation Month: 10 Books for 2021

Poet Iman Mersal talked about the difficulty of how, when she wrote about Enayat al-Zayyat, suddenly al-Zayyat became singular, a writer with a new cult following. Rather than focusing on adding particular women writers, she suggested people instead need to think again about the canon and “trust our readings: what we like, and what we don’t like. Not to add or subtract from the literary canon, but to encourage the diversity. To ask: Who put this text here and why?”

30 Reads: A Month of Algerian Literature by Women

Women in Translation Month is always a time of great excitement for me, but as a reader addicted to Algerian fiction it is also a time for sorrow. Few novels written by Algerian women have been translated (to English or to any other languages), and if I stuck to the list of works that have appeared in English translation, I would end up recommending the same books on a loop, making people think that Algeria’s literary production is almost entirely composed of works by Assia Djebar. 

-Nadia Ghanem

Our ‘9 Stories’ Lists

9 Short Stories by Sudanese and South Sudanese Women, in Translation

9 Short Stories by Algerian Women, in Translation

9 Short Stories by Egyptian Women, in Translation

9 Short Stories by Syrian Women, in Translation

Commentary & Podcasts

On Why Women’s Poetry in Arabic is Where It’s At

“For me, actually, I think we are impacted by male writers who are writing now, and they are writing about broken masculinity, which I don’t like either. So maybe women are free of this, relatively. Maybe they are marginalized, so they have more opportunity to think, to write.”

-Iman Mersal

#WiTMonth Podcasts: Poetry and More with Iman Mersal


‘On Fiction’s Uneaten Meals’: A Talk with Donia Kamal

“Cooking is a central way in which the narrator feels; it reflects her state of mind and how she perceives the events and people around her. So it was more important for me to write about the process of making the food rather than about people eating it.”

-Donia Kamal

Sahar Khalifeh: ‘I Am A Committed Writer, Or Maybe I Am An Obsessed Writer’

“I am a committed writer or maybe I am an obsessed writer.  I am obsessed by occupation because I live it. I witness the atrocities of occupation. I witness and live through those atrocities and still am living them.”

-Sahar Khalifeh

Haifa Zangana on Translation as Revisiting the Past

“Short stories. Why? It’s probably related to my scientific background. Short stories are precise and condensed in time and place, which liberates the writer of the constrains attached to novel writing. In a short story, you can capture a glimpse into life without its mundane details, thus leaving more space for the reader’s imagination to act rather than react.”

-Haifa Zangana

Searching for the Funambulists: Lisa Marchi on Women Poets of the Arab Diaspora

“Now, I must say there is a younger generation of translators and they are kind of more daring in their choices.”

-Lisa Marchi

Poetry by Women, in Translation

Rawan Maki’s ‘Waves of the Future’ / ‘أمواج المستقبل’

‘If I Were a Cat’: Rasha Omran’s Poetry in Three Languages

Samar Abdel Jaber’s ‘Four Years Without You’

Nada Elshabrawy’s ‘In a Bad Movie’

Rym Jalil’s ‘My Mother’s Kitchen’

Fiction by Women, in Translation

Raghad Qasim’s ‘Hair or No Hair’

This Month’s ‘Lit & Found’

Lit & Found: Histories and Archives of Arabic Publishing

Lit & Found: Hoda Barakat’s ‘The Return of the Non-Prodigal Sons’

Lit & Found: An Excerpt of Basma Abdel Aziz’s ‘Here Is a Body’

Lit & Found: The Documentary ‘Mujeres Árabes Lápiz en Mano’