Why an international feminist press?

Night,_Street,_Lamp..._(4267111310) (1)As a writer and translator who has never blogged, the prospect of getting Weyward’s blog up and going has been a daunting one. I’ve seen plenty of good blogs over the years – ones full of charming photos and easygoing prose – but I never felt like I carried something inside of me the social media world really needed to hear. There are plenty of other clamoring voices out there, so why add mine? But life has a funny way of twisting itself around on you, of dumping you in the middle of a labyrinth you know you wanted but which overwhelms you all the same.

So here I am sitting over my first blog post, wondering what die toss of words will work. If they don’t land just right, I suspect the world won’t come to a crashing end though. Last night, I was talking to my significant other in the rambling way I do about German things and library things and the astonishingly talented women writers whose books and stories I am working with. When I brought this blog up to him, he said: Of course, you can do it. You know the words. Just pretend you’re talking to me. So this is me talking to him instead of to the faceless readers out there whose paths I haven’t yet crossed in the physical world. About what today? About why I’m here. Not in some metaphysical sense, but in a truly physical one. At this keyboard, staring at Weyward’s website. How have I ended up here and why?

  1. I’m a German literary translator. Or at least, I want to be one. A very good one, if I have my choice. Over the past year of trying to keep my head above water in the publishing world, I’ve learned one very important thing: There are many too few opportunities for the publication of translated works in the US market. This means that there have to be more options out there, if all of us translators are to succeed in truly bring multi-cultural, multi-linguistic diversity to the publishing world. So this also means that we need more publishers out there, even tiny ones like Weyward, to create sea change, one book at a time.
  2. Over the past six months, I’ve become acquainted with a fair share of the publishers in the US who are intrepidly bringing international literature to US readers. They have my greatest respect, and I admire what they do everyday to increase the number of translated works, providing platforms for diverse voices from around the world. However, one thing has become very obvious to me. The publishing world – especially the upper level of publishers – is a male-dominated landscape. Almost all of these publishers in the US are men. Very intrepid, courageous men, but men nonetheless. Where are the women? Where are their perspectives and guiding influences in the steering of the presses? Despite the gender imbalance in the US, I do know several amazing women publishers of international fiction from the European context: Else Laudan at Argument Verlag, Zoe Beck at CulturBooks, Dorothea Liebel at Liebel Books, and Franca Scurti Simpson at Calisi Books. All publishers, all translators, all seeking to further the literary dialogue around international fiction and women’s voices. So yes, I aspire to be one of them and to have Weyward be a framework to not only promote female-authored works – from German and in English translation – but to also explore feminist realism and viewpoints within the crime/noir genre.
  3. The topic of women in translation has become a major one here in 2016. With only about 30% of the published works in English translation being by women, there is a clear need to raise the bar and expand the field in which international women’s voices can have a place. Hence, Weyward’s focus on books by women in particular.
  4. Lastly, the question of genre. Literary fiction and translation are interesting bedfellows, especially in the context of publishing. Although some of the very large publishers are in the business of publishing the international bestsellers (insert Larsson, Mankell and Nesbo here), most of the smaller presses favor literary fiction and do not accept submissions of genre fiction (New Vessel and Unnamed are two prominent exceptions). This leaves a huge gap that is filled with high quality, culturally and politically analytical works that have no real home. And yet this genre is one in which many women find an outlet to critique different aspects of the contemporary world and the female experience, while framing their commentaries in the compelling, encompassing world of the crime/noir framework. As a longtime lover of mysteries – one that dates back to Bobbsey Twins and Sherlock Holmes – this is a natural place for me to land.

So, dear one, these are my thoughts in a relatively large nutshell as to why Weyward and why now. My hope is that this blog will become a conduit for articles and insights from the German-language context. We have much to learn from other peoples and places, if we Americans can only have the wisdom to look and to do what has always been our strength, as well as our weakness: to accept and incorporate the varied perspectives from around the globe. We carry bits of cultures from around the world in our national identity, though we have lost sight of them. It is time to reengage in that dialogue – that Auseinandersetzung – with the rest of the world, in order to recognize the beauty and meaning in the truly international perspective, and to face our fears and assumptions that make us less than we should be.

Here’s hoping that Weyward and its authors will help you along that journey.

Photo by Andrey Belenko from Moscow, Russia (Night, Street, Lamp…) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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