The book trade is celebrating International Women's Day today (8th March) with a host of events and publications ready to show solidarity with women worldwide, as well as the launch of a new prize for Women in Translation to address the gender imbalance in literature in translation.
Launched by Warwick University, the inaugural Warwick Prize for Women in Translation will be awarded in November this year, opening for entry in April. The £1,000 prize will go to the best eligible work of fiction, poetry, literary non-fiction or work of fiction for children or young adults written by a woman and translated into English by a female or male translator (with each contributor to receive an equal share).
According to Warwick, the prize aims to address "the gender imbalance in translated literature" and to increase the number of international women’s voices accessible by British and Irish readerships. The university argued "if translated literature as a whole is underrepresented on the British book market, then women’s voices in translation are even more peripheral", citing The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize as one example; the award has been presented 21 times, but won by a woman only twice, it said.
Maureen Freely, president of English PEN and head of English and Comparative Literary Studies at Warwick, said: "We've come a long way with the championing of world literature over the past decade, welcoming in a multiplicity of voices which have gone on to enrich us all. In the same period, however, we've noticed that it is markedly more difficult for women to make it into English translation. This prize offers us an opportunity to welcome in the voices and perspectives we've missed thus far."
The initiative follows calls for a Year of Publishing Women next year, asking publishers to only publish books by female writers in 2018, the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote in the UK. The challenge, first issued by Kamila Shamsie in 2015 in response to issues of gender bias, has been taken up by independent publisher And Other Stories among others.
International Women's Day, not only a day for accelerating gender parity but a celebration of women, also sees booksellers championing women writers in its stores and books about inspiring women women hitting the shelves.
Foyles is celebrating the day by showcasing three voices in literary fiction, Ayobami Adebayo, Joanna Cannon and Chibundu Onuzo, at its Charing Cross store. Adebayo will be talking about her debut Stay With Me (Canongate) that today has been longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, while Cannon will discuss her bestselling debut, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep (The Borough Press), ahead of a second novel with the press, snapped up for six figures last year, publishing in June. Onuzo, author of The Spider King's Daughter, will discuss her second novel, Welcome to Lagos, the story of Chike Ameobi who, after being tasked with killing innocent civilians, abandons the army and journeys to Lagos in search of a better life. Chairing the event is Sam Baker, co-founder of The Pool and a judge for this year's Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. The longlist for the prize, which includes Margaret Atwood, Sarah Perry and Eimear McBride, was announced today and can be found here.
At Waterstones, English PEN this evening is hosting readings by international women authors Xiaolu Guo, Martina Evans, Wioletta Greg, Michèle Roberts and Meike Ziervogel at an event named "International Fiction on International Women's Day" at its Picadilly branch. Guo, from south China, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction for her first novel written in English, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, while 20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth, published in 2008, was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize. She will be reading from her memoir Once Upon a Time in the East (Vintage), which its publisher has pitched as "Wild Swans for a new generation".
Women's publisher Virago launched a month-long photo challenge and social media campaign #BooksforChange to support International Women’s Day, as inspired by the official hashtag of this year’s International Women’s day #BeBoldForChange. Since 1st March, there have been 1050 mentions of #BooksforChange on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Virago also held an event, "Typesetting Feminism", last night at the British Library, an evening of discussion and film on the eve of International Women's Day with editors Carmen Callil, Lennie Goodings and Claire Whalley. It celebrated the British Library’s recent acquisition of the Carmen Callil Archive, which joins the previously held Virago Archive.
Virago author June Eric Udorie, editor of an anthology on intersectional feminism coming out in 2018 and Elle magazine's "activist of the year", is also taking part this evening in an Intelligence Squared event, "Feminism is for Everyone", with MP Jess Philips and co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party Catherine Mayer, with the presenter of BBC Newsnight, Emily Maitlis, chairing.
Biteback Publishing today announces a two-volume series of biographies of every female MP ever to be elected to the House of Commons, The Honourable Ladies, edited by Biteback’s publisher Iain Dale and former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. The book will comprise biographical essays on each of the 456 "Honourable Ladies" to have been elected, with each of the contributors to be female. Volume I will cover female MPs to sit in the House of Commons between 1918 and 1997, publishing in November 2018, and Volume II will span the period 1997 and 2019, publishing in November 2019.
Smith said: “The women who made it into Parliament during these years showed considerable grit and energy. That’s what they share, but there are also a whole range of histories, backgrounds and events to explore which make this such an exciting project. I’m really looking forward to seeing their stories told by other women – many of whom followed in their footsteps.”
Other publishers celebrating strong women through their books include MP Jess Phillips' book, Everywoman, published in February by Penguin Random House, The Women Who Shaped Politics by Sophie Ridge, publishing with Hodder & Stoughton, and BBC Books' collection of witticisms from inspiring women, Woman's Hour: Words from wise, witty and wonderful women, including quotes from Doris Lessing, Nora Ephron, Meryl Streep and JK Rowling, as well as Margaret Thatcher - one of the more controversial entries to make the Woman's Hour's Power List in December last year, which also included Helen Fielding's fictional character Bridget Jones.
Cambridge University Press is meanwhile supporting International Women’s Day by making chapters from over 100 feminist theory and women’s history books free to read online.
Chapters available include "Darwin and Women", edited by Samantha Evans, exploring Darwin's correspondence with women and the lives of those he knew and wrote to, including a large number of unpublished letters between members of Darwin's family and their friends; "The Value of Virginia Woolf" by Madelyn Detloff, a demonstration of Woolf’s value in our own time, both as a defender of modernist experimentation and as a novelist of innovation and poetic vision; "An Introduction to Feminism" by Lorna Finlayson, a critical introduction to feminist theory, providing an overview on the practice of feminism with coverage of actions and activism; and "Women Talk More Than Men" by Abby Kaplan, addressing a range of language myths and the social factors influencing how we speak.
Mandy Hill, managing director for Academic Publishing at Cambridge University Press, said: “International Women’s Day is a celebration of the great work done by women across the globe and across history and I am delighted that we are making content published by Cambridge University Press free to support this important initiative.
"As a university press and global publisher we see it as intrinsic within our role to support, develop and publish the highest standards of education and research for everyone and by everyone, irrespective of gender, race, age, or sexuality. To achieve this goal, we have to champion our women authors, editors and publishing teams, which sometimes means pushing against historic norms."
Sales of selected feminist tomes, such as Gloria Steinem’s autobiography, On the Road, (Oneworld), have seen a boost since actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson started her feminist book club, Our Shared Shelf. The latest title chosen, Women Who Run With The Wolves by Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes (Rider Books), has become one of Rider’s top performing titles, having now sold in excess of 470,000 copies, according to Rider, since it was selected by Watson for her club on 1st March.
Its author, Dr Estes, said: "Those who have contacted me about these matters are happy as am I, that WWRWTW may likely reach new generations through Emma's book club ...a long held hope, as you who know my work, know about my intentions to inoculate the young to be wise and wild, to survive any Bluebeard, and to know even when fallen to bones, we can come back to life again. That to howl to find our pack, is our birth right."