Women in Translation Month Arabic Recommendations

Collage of book covers

August in Women in Translation Month in the bookish world. Started in 2014 by Meytal Radzinski, the month is an opportunity to encourage readers around the world to read and celebrate women writers in translation. Of course, we should all be trying to read more women and more translations throughout the year. I’ve collected here a few titles which I’ve read and enjoyed in Arabic and which have been translated into English.

Adult Fiction

Blood Feast/Something Strange, Like Hunger by Malika Moustadraf, translated by Alice Guthrie (Morocco)
Moustadraf’s short stories are full of humanity. They give a new perspective on Moroccan society and show aspects less likely to be seen in other representations.

The Baghdad Clock by Shahad al-Rawi, translated by Luke Leafgren (Iraq)
This is a beautiful novel filled with magical realism. It follows a young Iraqi girl in Baghdad as she and her neighborhood live through the upheaval of the life they knew.
See also: ‘The Baghdad Clock’: A novel of Iraqi youth in search of lost time from the Middle East Eye

Voices of the Lost by Hoda Barakat, translated by Marilyn Booth (Lebanon)
This novel presents the stories of six strangers, each sharing their secrets by writing to a loved one. A longing for connection is woven throughout. I found it beautiful and poignant.

Shubeik lubeik (Your wish is my command) by Deena Mohamed and translated by the author (Egypt)
Brilliant graphic novel that depicts modern Egyptian society through a fictional version of our world where “wishes” truly exist.


Traces of Enayat Zayyat by Iman Mersal, translated by Robin Moger (Publication date: August 3, 2023) (Egypt)
I read the Sur les traces d’Enayat Zayyat, the French translation by Richard Jacquemond of this book, and absolutely loved it. It reminded me greatly of Serial-style podcasts where the reader is presented both with information about the subject, but also about the investigator’s quest to find out more. It was brilliantly done and a fascinating read.

What Have You Left Behind? by Bushra al-Maqtari, translated by Sawad Hussain (Yemen)
Bushra al-Maqtari collected the testimonies of Yemenis who have lived through the Yemeni Civil War. She published a selection of them in 2018, its English translation followed in 2022. The translator, Sawad Hussain, wrote of her experience translating this work at New Writing in the post “Translating Trauma.” It is an important and difficult read. Few people in the ~Western~ world are aware of what’s happening in Yemen, but through this work they can get a glimpse of the pain wrought upon its people.
See also: ‘What Have You Left Behind’: On Translating Trauma and What to do after Reading about Yemen on ArabLit.org

Middle Grade/Young Adult

Ghady & Rawan by Fatima Sharafeddine and Samar Mahfouz Barraj, translated by Sawad Hussain and M. Lynx Qualey (Lebanon)
Two teenagers, one living in Beirut, the other in Brussels, meet in the summer in Lebanon. They begin corresponding and discussing the difficulties of their lives.

The Servant by Fatima Sharafeddine, translated by the author (Lebanon)
Faten is a young girl from the mountain with big dreams. One day, her parents announce that she will be leaving school and the village to go work for a rich family in Beirut. She finds a way to follow her dreams despite the circumstances.

What Happened to Zeeko by Emily Nasrallah, illustrated by Maha Nasrallah, translated by Denys Johnson-Davies (Lebanon)
The Lebanese war as seen through the eyes of a beloved cat.