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Posted on Jul 10, 2024 in Blog, Languages

More Stars for Translation!

More Stars for Translation!

Sometimes translators are the last people to find out news about the book they worked on. That was in part the case for me last week, when making one of my occasional trips to social media, I discovered a post by Kirkus editor Laura Simeon highlighting Our Beautiful Darkness, a graphic novel by the Angolan author Ondjaki, illustrated by António Jorge Gonçalves, translated by me, and published by Enchanted Lion. Laura, who I’ve never met personally, has been a longtime champion of international literature in translation for kids and teens. Many of the titles in her annual Editor’s Choice picks, part of the Kirkus list of Best Children’s Books, are translated titles that have flown under the radar at other trade reviewers. I am especially appreciative of her efforts because our translators’ panel proposals at educational conferences large and small are regularly turned down, depriving us of the opportunity to advocate in person for teaching international literature in ELA classrooms.

On Instagram last week, Laura wrote, “In this week’s episode of Fully Booked, the @kirkus_reviews podcast…my pick of the week is OUR BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS… This lyrical book follows two teens who are sitting and talking — about the sublime and the everyday — amid a blackout in Luanda during the the Angolan civil war. The stunning white-on-black art enhances the story’s intimate atmosphere. This work is both profound and accessible; it highlights the power of human attention and connection, of simply sitting and being together.”

In investigating further, I found out that Our Beautiful Darkness had indeed received a starred Kirkus review in May! I let my editor at Enchanted Lion, Claudia Bedrick, know about the Fully Booked episode because she spends even less time on social media than I do. In the meantime, she told me about a more recent starred review, one that had come out only the day before from Publishers Weekly. PW called the novel “arresting” and added, “Rarely interrupted void-like blank space neatly juxtaposes the author’s spare storytelling, which focuses intensely on feelings and specific sensory experiences such as touch and limited sight.” PW often prioritizes books that will have appeal to bookstore buyers, which means that more stores will likely choose to stock this unique graphic novel.

The publication date for Our Beautiful Darkness, originally slated for July 23 of this year, has been pushed back to August 20 due to production challenges. It will still be ready for the start of the new school year, and I expect that more reviews will appear in the next few months. I am excited about this debut children’s book in translation by the internationally acclaimed Black author who grew up in Luanda, Angola and now lives in Brazil. I first found this book in Portugal when it first came out; its stunning artwork made it an instant buy and the text convinced me that this book had to be translated. Furthermore, it kindled an interest in Ondjaki’s work, so that since then, I’ve read several more of his novels and short stories for adults and am now writing up a reader report for a middle grade novel set in Luanda in the late 1980s.

I’m sorry that I couldn’t go to the American Library Association conference at the end of June to attend the Batchelder Award ceremony, where my previous graphic novel translation, Pardalita, by Joana Estrela and published by Levine Querido, received an Honor citation. I’m tracking down photos from the ceremony and a picture of the honor certificate. My friend Meg Eden Kuyatt posted on Instagram a picture of her Schneider Family Honor citation certificate for her middle grade verse novel Good Different, and it was large and elaborate. I’m assuming that the one for Pardalita will be equally impressive.

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