Reading, if we allow it to be, is an opportunity to become more cosmopolitan. The process of experience-taking, where we vicariously live life as a character and internalize their feelings, can alter our real-life thoughts and behaviors. But, in the U.S., where a mere 3% of the books published each year are translations, and where publication rates for men are drastically higher than for women, what we read is likely to reinforce our already-American worldviews and discount the perspectives and stories of all but a tiny sliver of the world’s population.
Years ago, I did an inventory of my bookshelves and discovered that the authors skewed heavily to white males:
(I did this using the Author Gallery feature on LibraryThing.com, which is a “social bookshelf” where you can keep track of what you’re reading, discuss books, and find new reading recommendations.)
I also began mapping out my reading list at the end of each year to get a feel for where my books are coming from. Here are a few examples from the past, and from what I’ve read (so far) this year:
August just happens to be Women in Translation Month, with everyone from PEN America blogging and tweeting their support (#womenintranslation, #WITmonth). If you’d like to explore the works of female authors from around the globe, the fantastic Tumblr blog Women in Translation has published a list of “Books written by women and translated into English, published since 2010“.