Am I really so limited in what I read? Yes. Yes I am. And it’s BAD.
The Guardian published an article about a panel at the Jaipur LitFest, where Chinese-British author Xiaolu Guo slammed Americans for have “massively overrated” literature. More specifically, she pwned us for not reading many foreign language books translated to English.
In the Guardian article, Guo is quoted as saying: “Nowadays all this narrative [literature is] very similar…so all the poetry, all the alternative things, have been pushed away by mainstream society.”
As a writer of YA fantasy, the quote got me thinking about the international YA book market—Young Adult books originally written in French, or Japanese, German or Swedish and then translated to English.
Young Adult fiction has, of course, exploded as a genre in the last 10 years, so much so that the New York Times had to create a bestseller list solely for YA books. I love reading YA, so I have a fairly extensive collection of books in the genre. And yet, when I scanned my floor-to-ceiling shelves for translated YA books, I came up with….
I’m still cringing from that little revelation.
Maybe, I thought to myself desperately, it’s because there just aren’t that many international authors writing YA in their respective languages. After all, the trend is quite recent in the United States. Perhaps the U.S. demand for YA books—and the resulting increase in supply— set off a global demand for the genre that hasn’t yet been met by international writers.
Yeah, a little Googling disabused me of that notion. There is a vibrant selection of foreign-language YA books translated into English, and I’m embarrassed as hell that I don’t own any of them. So I’m going to make amends. Here’s a list of YA authors who write in other languages, and whose work has been translated for English-speakers to enjoy. GO AND READ THEM.
Isabelle Allende: City of the Beasts (Original in SPANISH)
Carlos Ruiz Zafón: The Prince of Mist (SPANISH)
Cornelia Funke: The Thief Lord, Inkheart, Reckless (GERMAN)
Oliver Pötzsch: The Hangman’s Daughter (GERMAN) Though this isn’t strictly YA, I probably would have read it as a young adult.
Isabel Abedi: Whisper (GERMAN)
Mats Wahl: The Invisible (SWEDISH)
Yasutaka Tsutsui: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. (JAPANESE) Again, not precisely YA—more Sci-fi, but fine for more advanced readers
Nagaru Tanigawa: The Haruhi Suzumiya series (JAPANESE)
Alki Zei: Tina’s Web (GREEK)
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: The Little Prince (FRENCH) I’ll also add his Wind, Sand and Stars, which is one of my favorite books, even if it’s not YA.
Pierdomenico Baccalario: The Ulysses Moore Series (ITALIAN)
This is, of course, a small sampling of the translated YA books out there, but hopefully it’s useful in broadening everyone’s horizons. I, for one, am thrilled that I’ve found my reading material for the next couple of months.
**Note No. 1: Many, many thanks to olivisasbooks on Goodreads, who created this list, where I found many of these titles.
**Note No. 2: I’m bummed I couldn’t find any translations of Chinese, Persian or Arabic YA. If anyone knows of anything, please post!