Five translated books for Pride Month

Photo by Carlos de Toro @carlosdetoro on Unsplash

It’s Pride Month! In honour of celebrating Pride Month, I’ll be sharing some LGBTQIA2S+ book recommendations. Keep checking in each week for more recommendations.

LGBTQIA2S+ = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Two-Spirit, and plus (anyone who doesn’t fit into one specific category)


Can you believe it’s already June?!

Well here we are, almost halfway through the year. That means it’s time for Pride Month!

I know in the past few years there’s been a heavy focus on “rainbow capitalism” and how corporations put on such a display for Pride Month. It’s obvious that most corporations are only participating in Pride Month as a marketing strategy. But that doesn’t negate the importance of this month.

Pride is an annual recognition of the Stonewall Riots, which marked a significant turning point in LGBTQIA2S+ rights in North America.

Pride started out as a riot and an act of resistance. We don’t want to lose that part of its history.

They were fighting for their human rights, and for others to better understand their humanity.

Around the world

Around the world, LGBTQIA2S+ individuals are still fighting for their rights. Each country has their own history and political climate around LGBTQIA2S+ rights, but all of our rights (and the fights for those rights) are interconnected and dependent on each other.

I believe one of the greatest ways we can improve the world is by having empathy and understanding each others’ experiences. The more we can accept others in all their humanity, the better we are able to listen and support them.

One of the easiest ways to learn about other people’s experiences is to listen to them talk about it. This can be through any kind of media; books, movies, social media, etc. or of course, in person.

Books are a great way to experience the world from a different perspective. Every time you read a book you are seeing the world from the characters’ perspective and getting immersed in their lives. What a great way to see the full spectrum of their humanity; all their feelings, their mistakes, their triumphs, their relationships, and everything else.

These five books are a great way to experience different perspectives of gender, of sexuality, of language, and of culture.

Each of these books are unique and come with an opportunity to learn something new from each.

Five translated books for Pride Month

Here’s a list of five books that have been translated to English and are great to read during Pride Month.

  1. Sphinx by Anne Garréta (1986)
    translated from the French by Emma Ramadan
  2. Notes of a Crocodile / 鱷魚手記 by Qiu Miaojin / 邱妙津 (1994)
    translated from the Chinese (Taiwan) by Bonnie Huie
  3. The Membranes / 膜 by Chi Ta-Wei / 紀大偉 (1995)
    translated from the Chinese (Taiwan) by Ari Larissa Heinrich
  4. A Country for Dying / Un pays pour mourir by Abdellah Taïa (2015)
    translated from the French by Emma Ramadan
  5. Tentacle / La mucama de Omicunlé by Rita Indiana (2015)
    translated from the Spanish (Dominican) by Achy Obejas

Keep reading to find out more about each one. I’ve listed them in order of when they were published

Sphinx (1986)

by Anne Garréta, translated from the French by Emma Ramadan

  • Year Published: 1986
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, lgbtqia+, literary, challenging, informative, reflective, slow-paced
  • Written without any gender markers or pronouns

A landmark literary event: the first novel by a female member of Oulipo in English, a sexy genderless love story.

Sphinx is the remarkable debut novel, originally published in 1986, by the incredibly talented and inventive French author Anne Garréta, one of the few female members of Oulipo, the influential and exclusive French experimental literary group whose mission is to create literature based on mathematical and linguistic restraints, and whose ranks include Georges Perec and Italo Calvino, among others.

A beautiful and complex love story between two characters, the narrator, “I,” and their lover, A***, written without using any gender markers to refer to the main characters, Sphinx is a remarkable linguistic feat and paragon of experimental literature that has never been accomplished before or since in the strictly-gendered French language.

Sphinx is a landmark text in the feminist, LGBT, and experimental literary canons appearing in English for the first time.

Links:

Notes of a Crocodile / 鱷魚手記 (1994)

by Qiu Miaojin (邱妙津), translated from the Chinese (Taiwan) by Bonnie Huie

  • Year Published: 1994 (English version in 2017)
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, classics, lgbtqia+, literary, dark, emotional, reflective, medium-paced
  • Qiu Miaojin was posthumously awarded the China Times Literature Award in 1995 for this book

Set in the post-martial-law era of late 1980s Taipei, Notes of a Crocodile depicts the coming-of-age of a group of queer misfits discovering love, friendship, and artistic affinity while hardly studying at Taiwan’s most prestigious university. Told through the eyes of an anonymous lesbian narrator nicknamed Lazi, Qiu Miaojin’s cult classic novel is a postmodern pastiche of diaries, vignettes, mash notes, aphorisms, exegesis, and satire by an incisive prose stylist and countercultural icon.

Links:

The Membranes / 膜 (1995)

by Chi Ta-Wei (紀大偉), translated from the Chinese (Taiwan) by Ari Larissa Heinrich

  • Year Published: 1995
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, lgbtqia+, science fiction, speculative fiction, dark, mysterious, reflective, medium-paced
  • Classic of queer speculative fiction in Chinese

It is the late twenty-first century, and Momo is the most celebrated dermal care technician in all of T City. Humanity has migrated to domes at the bottom of the sea to escape devastating climate change. The world is dominated by powerful media conglomerates and runs on exploited cyborg labor. Momo prefers to keep to herself, and anyway she’s too busy for other relationships: her clients include some of the city’s best-known media personalities. But after meeting her estranged mother, she begins to explore her true identity, a journey that leads to questioning the bounds of gender, memory, self, and reality.

First published in Taiwan in 1995, The Membranes is a classic of queer speculative fiction in Chinese. Chi Ta-wei weaves dystopian tropes–heirloom animals, radiation-proof combat drones, sinister surveillance technologies–into a sensitive portrait of one young woman’s quest for self-understanding. Predicting everything from fitness tracking to social media saturation, this visionary and sublime novel stands out for its queer and trans themes. The Membranes reveals the diversity and originality of contemporary speculative fiction in Chinese, exploring gender and sexuality, technological domination, and regimes of capital, all while applying an unflinching self-reflexivity to the reader’s own role. Ari Larissa Heinrich’s translation brings Chi’s hybrid punk sensibility to all readers interested in books that test the limits of where speculative fiction can go.

Links:

A Country for Dying / Un pays pour mourir (2015)

by Abdellah Taïa, translated from the French by Emma Ramadan

  • Year Published: 2015
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction. lgbtqia+, emotional, reflective, slow-paced
  • Written by Morocco’s first openly gay writer

An exquisite novel of North Africans in Paris by one of the most original and necessary voices in world literature

Paris, Summer 2010.

Zahira is 40 years old, Moroccan, a prostitute, traumatized by her father’s suicide decades prior, and in love with a man who no longer loves her.

Zannouba, Zahira’s friend and protege, formerly known as Aziz, prepares for gender confirmation surgery and reflects on the reoccuring trauma of loss, including the loss of her pre-transition male persona.

Mojtaba is a gay Iranian revolutionary who, having fled to Paris, seeks refuge with Zahira for the month of Ramadan.

Meanwhile, Allal, Zahira’s first love back in Morocco, travels to Paris to find Zahira.

Through swirling, perpendicular narratives,

A Country for Dying follows the inner lives of emigrants as they contend with the space between their dreams and their realities, a schism of a postcolonial world where, as Ta a writes, So many people find themselves in the same situation. It is our destiny: To pay with our bodies for other people’s future.

Links:

Tentacle / La mucama de Omicunlé (2015)

by Rita Indiana, translated from the Spanish (Dominican) by Achy Obejas

  • Year Published: 2015
  • Storygraph Categories:
    fiction, lgbtqia+, science fiction, adventurous, challenging, medium-paced
  • Experimental science fiction that deals with questions of race, gender, and environmental change

Plucked from her life on the streets of post-apocalyptic Santo Domingo, young maid Acilde Figueroa finds herself at the heart of a Santería prophecy: only she can travel back in time and save the ocean – and humanity – from disaster. But first she must become the man she always was – with the help of a sacred anemone. Tentacle is an electric novel with a big appetite and a brave vision, plunging headfirst into questions of climate change, technology, Yoruba ritual, queer politics, poverty, sex, colonialism and contemporary art. Bursting with punk energy and lyricism, it’s a restless, addictive trip: The Tempest meets the telenovela.

Links:

Final thoughts

I hope you found something of interest in this list of books.

I’m always looking for more suggestions of books to read. I’d love to know which books you love or that you would recommend. Let me know in a comment below!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

A strange melancholy

This is a quote from the book Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan, translated from the French by Irene Ash.

Quote by Françoise Sagan, “A strange melancholy pervades me to which I hesitate to give the grave and beautiful name of sadness. In the past the idea of sadness always appealed to me, now I am almost ashamed of its complete egoism. I had known boredom, regret, and at times remorse, but never sadness. To-day something envelops me like a silken web, enervating and soft, which isolates me.”

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

If you’re interested, you can read an excerpt from the book here.

Bonjour Tristesse – Summary

Here is the book summary:

Set against the translucent beauty of France in summer, Bonjour Tristesse is a bittersweet tale narrated by Cecile, a seventeen-year-old girl on the brink of womanhood, whose meddling in her father’s love life leads to tragic consequences.

Endearing, self-absorbed, seventeen-year-old Cécile is the very essence of untroubled amorality. Freed from the stifling constraints of boarding school, she joins her father—a handsome, still-young widower with a wandering eye—for a carefree, two-month summer vacation in a beautiful villa outside of Paris with his latest mistress. Cécile cherishes the free-spirited moments she and her father share, while plotting her own sexual adventures with a “tall and almost beautiful” law student. But the arrival of her late mother’s best friend intrudes upon a young girl’s pleasures. And when a relationship begins to develop between the adults, Cécile and her lover set in motion a plan to keep them apart…with tragic, unexpected consequences.

The internationally beloved story of a precocious teenager’s attempts to understand and control the world around her, Françoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse is a beautifully composed, wonderfully ambiguous celebration of sexual liberation, at once sympathetic and powerfully unsparing.

Copyright © 1955 by Françoise Sagan

Translated from the French by: Irene Ash

You can find more details here on Goodreads and on StoryGraph.

Beautiful name of sadness

Excerpt from Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan

This is an excerpt from the book Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan, translated from the French by Irene Ash.

A strange melancholy pervades me to which I hesitate to give the grave and beautiful name of sadness. In the past the idea of sadness always appealed to me, now I am almost ashamed of its complete egoism. I had known boredom, regret, and at times remorse, but never sadness. To-day something envelops me like a silken web, enervating and soft, which isolates me.

That summer I was seventeen and perfectly happy. I lived with my father, and there was also Elsa, who for the time being was his mistress. I must explain this situation at once, or it might give a false impression. My father was forty, and had been a widower for fifteen years. He was young for his age, full of vitality and possibilities, and when I left school two years before, I soon noticed that he lived with a women. It took me rather longer to realise that it was a different one every six months. But gradually his charm, my new easy life, and my own disposition led me to accept it. He was a frivolous man, clever at business, always curious, quickly bored, and attractive to women. it was easy to love him, for he was kind, generous, gay, and full of affection for me. I cannot imagine a better or a more amusing friend. At the beginning of the summer he even went so far as to ask me whether I would object to Elsa’s company during the holidays. She was a tall red-haired girl, sensual and worldly, gentle, rather simple, and unpretentious; one might have come across her any day in the studios and bars of the Champs-Elysées. I encouraged him to invite her. He needed women around him, and I knew that Elsa would not get in our way. In any case my father and I were so delighted at the prospect of going away together that we were in no mood to cavil at anything. He had rented a large white villa on the Mediterranean, for which we had been longing since the spring. It was remote and beautiful, and stood on a promontory dominating the sea, hidden from the road by a pine wood; a mule path led down to a tiny creek where the sea lapped against the rust-coloured rocks.

The first days were dazzling. We spent hours on the beach overwhelmed by the heat and gradually assuming a healthy golden tan; except Elsa, whose skin reddened and peeled, causing her atrocious suffering. My father performed all sorts of complicated leg exercises to reduce a rounding stomach unsuitable for a Don Juan. From dawn onwards I was in the water. It was cold and transparent, and I plunged wildly about in my efforts to wash away the shadows and dust of the city. I lay full length on the sand, took up a handful and let it run through my fingers in soft yellow streams. I told myself that it ran out like time. It was an idle thought, and it was pleasant to have idle thoughts for it was summer.

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

Bonjour Tristesse – Summary

Here is the book summary:

Set against the translucent beauty of France in summer, Bonjour Tristesse is a bittersweet tale narrated by Cecile, a seventeen-year-old girl on the brink of womanhood, whose meddling in her father’s love life leads to tragic consequences.

Endearing, self-absorbed, seventeen-year-old Cécile is the very essence of untroubled amorality. Freed from the stifling constraints of boarding school, she joins her father—a handsome, still-young widower with a wandering eye—for a carefree, two-month summer vacation in a beautiful villa outside of Paris with his latest mistress. Cécile cherishes the free-spirited moments she and her father share, while plotting her own sexual adventures with a “tall and almost beautiful” law student. But the arrival of her late mother’s best friend intrudes upon a young girl’s pleasures. And when a relationship begins to develop between the adults, Cécile and her lover set in motion a plan to keep them apart…with tragic, unexpected consequences.

The internationally beloved story of a precocious teenager’s attempts to understand and control the world around her, Françoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse is a beautifully composed, wonderfully ambiguous celebration of sexual liberation, at once sympathetic and powerfully unsparing.

Copyright © 1955 by Françoise Sagan

Translated from the French by: Irene Ash

You can find more details here on Goodreads and on StoryGraph.

tình bạn ~ friendship

Excerpt from Mãn by Kim Thúy

Photo by Sam McNamara on Unsplash

This is an excerpt from the book Mãn by Kim Thúy, translated from the French by Sheila Fischman.

tình bạn ~ friendship

Julie was the first to stick her head into the opening through which I delivered the plates. Her smile stretched from one side of the aperture to the other. The enthusiasm of her greeting was like that of an archaeologist upon discovering a trace of the first kiss. Promptly, before even a word was uttered, we became friends, and with time, sisters. She adopted me as she’d adopted her daughter, without questioning our past. She took me to see movies in the afternoon, or we would watch classics at her place. She opened her refrigerator and had me taste its contents in no particular order, according to her mood of the day: from smoked meat to tourtière, ketchup to sauce béchamel, and including celery root, rhubarb, bison, pouding chômeur and pickled eggs. Sometimes Julie would come and cook with me. I ld show her how to keep sticky rice in superimposed layers of banana leaves by squeezing them firmly but without smothering the rice. It’s always a fragile balance, one that fingers can feel better than words can explain.

At the end of every January, we had to prepare several dozen of the treats because my husband wanted to offer them to his friends and his distant relatives for the Vietnamese New Year, as his mother used to do in her village. The scent of banana leaves cooked in boiling water for many hours reminded him of the days before Tết when the whole neighbourhood spent the night feeding the fire under cauldrons full of rice rolls stuffed with mung bean paste, smooth and as discreetly yellow as the moon.

Julie came to our restaurant often. She invited her friends for lunch, organized monthly meetings of her book group, and reserved the entire restaurant to celebrate family birthdays and wedding anniversaries. Every time, she brought me out of the kitchen to be introduced to her guests, embracing me with her whole body. She was the big sister I’d never had, and I was her daughter’s Vietnamese mother.

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

Mãn – Summary

Here is the book summary:

Mãn has three mothers: the one who gives birth to her in wartime, the nun who plucks her from a vegetable garden, and her beloved Maman, who becomes a spy to survive. Seeking security for her grown daughter, Maman finds Mãn a husband – a lonely Vietnamese restaurateur who lives in Montreal.

Thrown into a new world, Mãn discovers her natural talent as a chef. Gracefully she practices her art, with food as her medium. She creates dishes that are much more than sustenance for the body: they evoke memory and emotion, time and place, and even bring her customers to tears.

Mãn is a mystery – her name means ‘perfect fulfillment’, yet she and her husband seem to drift along, respectfully and dutifully. But when she encounters a married chef in Paris, everything changes in the instant of a fleeting touch, and Mãn discovers the all-encompassing obsession and ever-present dangers of a love affair.

Full of indelible images of beauty, delicacy and quiet power, Mãn is a novel that begs to be savoured for its language, its sensuousness and its love of life.

Copyright © 2013 by Kim Thúy.

Translated by Sheila Fischman (English version published 2014)

You can find more details here on Goodreads and on StoryGraph.