Before becoming a translator, I wrote historical fiction set in part in Chile, a country I knew from working with exiles who had fled the Pinochet dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s as well as with musicians inside the country who were working underground to restore democracy.
My award-winning novel Gringolandia (Curbstone Press, 2009) portrayed one of many refugee stories, past and present.
And change the world it does!
Not finding the freedom they seek in their new home, the young narrator and her mother set about creating beauty and bringing change to their corner of the world.
Photos of the Portuguese and French editions from an exhibit
featuring illustrator Yara Kono at a public library
in Vila Franca de Xira, a town outside Lisbon, Portugal.
Through the efforts of We Need Diverse Books, Teaching for Change, and others, we are seeing more books about and by people of color, and those books are making their way into schools and onto bestseller lists.
I believe that international books in translation are the next front line in terms of diversity and Own Voices.
In times of crisis, people look to examples from the past and from other countries to offer guidance.
Set during the Salazar dictatorship in Portugal, and under Communism in Eastern Europe, Three Balls of Wool offers these examples, in an authentic and age-appropriate way.
- What is it like to live without freedom? Why do people take risks to have freedom?
- What can we learn from others forced to make the choice between staying in a bad situation or moving to places unknown where they may or may not be welcome?
- How would you welcome someone from a different land, from a different culture, who speaks a different language?
- How do people fit into their new home while staying true to who they are and where they come from?
- How do immigrants contribute to making their new homes a better place to live?
The fact that Three Balls of Wool has been translated from another language into English offers additional educational opportunities. Students in foreign language classes, from the earliest grades on, can discuss and understand the advantages of knowing another language. Students who are bilingual can try their hand at translating a poem or a story from one language into another.
Who knows? This may turn into a valuable career one day!
When I became fluent in Spanish, and then Portuguese, it was like having a key to unlock a hidden room. Knowing these languages has allowed me to read and listen to authentic voices and to bring them to readers in English who don’t know these languages.
I hope that my translations will encourage you to explore other countries, to learn from the diverse people who live there, and to welcome their stories into your homes and classrooms.