Our recommended reads in celebration of #WITMonth

Blog / Books

August 5, 2017 — by Indonesian Writers

Last updated on August 13, 2018 at 2:21 pm

Here’s a list of our recommended reads to celebrate Women in Translation Month (WITMonth), an event to raise awareness of books by women that have been translated into English. Women in translation must exist yearlong, but in August we get to give them that extra platform that they might not always have.

(1) Bound
by Okky Madasari, translated by Hayat Indriyatno
280 page(s)
Published Jun 15, 2014 by Gramedia Pustaka Utama

Originally published as Pasung Jiwa

Does free will truly exist? Does man truly exist? Okky Madasari explores the seminal questions of mankind and humanity in her novel. A struggle arises between the two main characters, Sasana and Jaka Wani, in the search for freedom from all restraints––from those of the mind and body, to restraints imposed by tradition and family, society and religion, to economic domination and the shackles of authority.

(2) Daughters of Papua
by Anindita S. Thayf, translated by Stefanny Irawan
200 page(s)
Published Dec 01, 2014 by Dalang Publishing

Originally published as Tanah Tabu

In Daughters of Papua, Leksi and her two pets tell the story of grandmother Mabel, a woman from the Dani tribe, born and raised in Papua’s interior. The de Wissels, Dutch missionaries, take the bright eight year old along to the city under the pretense of adopting her. Mabel quickly adapts to being domestic help and is eager to learn, but her request to attend school is denied; “You know enough and learning too much will only harm you.” Mabel realizes the falsehood of the missionaries’ claim to better Papua’s life when Christmas shopping proves more important than tending to a suicidal Papua woman, a victim of domestic abuse. She dies opposing the rape of the Papua land and its people.

(3) Earth Dance
by Oka Rusmini, translated by Rani Amboyo Thomas M. Hunter
166 page(s)
Published Oct 15, 2012 by Lontar Foundation

Originally published as Tarian Bumi

Earth Dance, the story of four generations of Balinese women, centers on conflicts that arise between the demands of caste and personal desires. Narrated by Ida Ayu Telaga, a Balinese woman in her thirties, the novel shows Balinese women-as depicted by her mother, grandmother and female peers-to be motivated by two factors: the yearning to be beautiful, and the desire for a high-caste husband. Headstrong Telaga defies her mother’s wishes and marries the man of her dreams, who is a commoner. Thus, in a reversal of societal expectations, as shown in the novel by images of women who aspire to “liberation” through “marrying up,” Telaga’s emancipation is implicitly characterized as a move downwards, through transformation to the status of a commoner.

(4) Family Room
by Lily Yulianti Farid, translated by John H. McGlynn
149 page(s)
Published Jan 01, 2010 by Lontar Foundation

The stories in Family Room together make up a sojourn through time and space, with the reader traveling from Indonesian villages and remote islands to the capital city of Jakarta; and then to Victoria Park in Hong Kong and onwards to refugee camps in Kashmir, and expedition camps near the lakes of Finland. The mosaic of family rooms, filtered through the feelings and eyes of narrators with heightened subjectivities, gives one the sense of what the country of lndonesia has gone through from time to time. The further away the protagonists roam from home, the stronger is the unspoken yearning for unraveling the traumas rooted at the center of the family homes. One especially strategic family room, where all these dark socio-cultural and political dimensions are dramatized brilliantly, is the kitchen, where the women of the home churn dreams, fears, social and political intrigues away. Another one is the bedroom, where babies are born and a maternal figure dies. It is in these domestic, feminized spaces that family as well as political affairs are played out in the most sharply felt intensity.

(5) From Now On Everything Will Be Different
by Eliza Vitri Handayani
160 page(s)

Published Oct 01, 2015 by Vagabond Press

Originally published as Mulai Saat Ini Segalanya Akan Berubah.

As democratic reforms swept Indonesia in the late nineties, the nation’s young generation asked themselves: what does it mean to be free? Spanning fifteen years, this novel follows the struggles and hopes, loves and disappointments of two young Indonesians who came of age during the Reformasi. Following the entwined paths of Julita and Rizky as they struggle to break free from a pattern of repeated disappointments and define themselves, Handayani presents a portrait of the changing and complex reality of contemporary Indonesia, and of the younger generation born out of revolution. From Now On Everything Will Be Different is a compelling study of freedom and love, community and conformity, told with humor, sensuality, and a subtly sharp political intelligence.

(6) Home
by Leila S. Chudori, translated by John H. McGlynn
500 page(s)
Published Oct 27, 2015 by Deep Vellum Publishing

Originally published as Pulang

The novel stays grounded with nostalgic themes of food and love, anchoring the reader with mouthwatering detail and the intrigue of Romeo and Juliet–esque affairs
Home (Publishers Weekly, Oct 26, 2015)

An epic saga of “families and friends entangled in the cruel snare of history” (Time magazine), Home combines political repression and exile with a spicy mixture of love, family, and food, alternating between Paris and Jakarta in the time between Suharto’s 1965 rise to power and downfall in 1998, further illuminating Indonesia’s tragic twentieth-century history popularized by the Oscar-nominated documentary The Act of Killing.

(7) Indonesian Women Writers
by Ayu Utami Djenar Maesa Ayu Helvy Tiana Rosa Intan Paramaditha Leila S. Chudori Lily Yulianti Farid Linda Christanty Nukila Amal Oka Rusmini
268 page(s)
Published Oct 01, 2015 by Regiospectra

Indonesian women’s fiction has flourished since the beginning of the Reformasi Era in 1998. Who are the authors? What do they write about? What are the contexts of their writings? This anthology offers a taste of this literary phenomenon by selecting nine stories, five author’s interviews, and five scholarly essays. It covers a variety of genres and themes, from social realism to gothic mystery to romance, from gender and sexuality to political satire to Islamic piety.

Excerpts from”Banal Asthetics and critical spiritualism: A Dialog of Photography & Literature in 13 Fragments“, by Ayu Utami; The Leech (Lintah), a short story from the book “They say I am an Monkey! (Mereka bilang saya Monyet!)“, by Djenar Maesa Ayu, Spinner of Darkness (Pemintal Kegelapan), by Intan Paramaditha, Brunch (Smokol) by Nukila Amal, Coffee and Tea (Teh dan Kopi) by Leila S. Chudori, The Devil’s Tree, a fragment from the novel “Tempurung”, by Oka Rusmini, Lake (Danau), a short story from Family room (Ruang Keluarga), by Lily Yulianti Farid, Weeds (Rumput Liar) by Linda Christanty, and Cut Vi by Helvy Tiana Rosa.

(8) Kei
by Erni Aladjai, translated by Hayat Indriyatno  
226 page(s)
Published Oct 01, 2014 by Dalang Publishing

Originally published as Kei: Kutemukan Cinta di Tengah Perang

Until the religious conflict erupts during the last days of the Suharto regime, the Kei people lived in harmony regardless of religion. Namira and her parents are Muslims and live on Kei Kecil Island when fighting breaks out. Namira loses both her parents and must flee. Sala, a young Protestant, leaves home after his mother is murdered in a massacre. He meets Namira at a refugee camp and the two fall in love before being separated by the continuing violence which threatens the islanders’ survival.

The violence on Kei is settled through the power of Kei tradition that prohibits fighting except for defending a woman’s honor and one’s property. Namira returns home and reunites with her best friend, a Christian. Sala flees from the police and dies from a wound onboard a ship sailing toward home.

(9) Only a Girl
by Lian Gouw
298 page(s)
Published Jun 30, 2011 by Dalang Publishing

Originally published as Menantang Phoenix

In Only a Girl, three generations of Chinese women struggle for identity against a political backdrop of the World Depression, World War II, and the Indonesian Revolution. Nanna, the matriarch of the family, strives to preserve the family’s traditional Chinese values while her children are eager to assimilate into Dutch colonial society.

Carolien, Nanna’s youngest daughter, is fixated with the advantages to be gained through adopting a Western lifestyle. She is proven wrong through her turbulent and ultimately failed marriage and by the consequences of raising her daughter in the Dutch culture.

Jenny’s Western upbringing puts her at a disadvantage in the newly independent Indonesian state where Dutch culture is no longer revered. The unique ways in which Nanna, Carolien and Jenny face their own challenges reveal the complex tale of Chinese society in Indonesia between 1930 and 1952.

UPDATE: Only a Girl is not a translation of Menantang Phoenix. It’s the other way around. Thanks for the correction, Steffany Irawan! 

(10) Paper Boats
by Dee Lestari, translated by Tiffany Tsao
400 page(s)
Published May 01, 2017 by AmazonCrossing

Originally published as Perahu Kertas

She’s a free-spirited dreamer. He’s a brilliant painter. But now their shared passion for art has turned into something deeper… For as long as she can remember, Kugy has loved to write. Whimsical stories are her passion, along with letters full of secret longings that she folds into paper boats and sets out to sea. Now that she’s older, she dreams of following her heart and becoming a true teller of tales, but she decides to get a “real job” instead and forget all about Keenan, the guy who makes her feel as if she’s living in one of her own fairy tales.

(11) Potions and Paper Cranes
by Lan Fang, translated by Elisabet Titik Murtisari
256 page(s)
Published Dec 01, 2013 by Dalang Publishing

Originally published as Perempuan Kembang Jepun

Sulis is a young woman who sells potions in Surabaya’s harbor district. In her basket she carries sweet rice and ginger potion, betel leaf potion, and tamarind leaf refreshing potion. Her tonics remedy everything from obesity to weakening virility. The route is long and the days are hot. She meets Sujono, a coolie with dreams of becoming a freedom fighter. They marry and have a son, Joko, that Sujono believes is from Sulis being with another man. Behind the walls of their squalid tenement they fight their own war, while on the streets World War II comes to an end and the Indonesian Revolution is on the rise.

Matsumi, a poor girl growing up in a fishing village in Japan, always wanted to be a geisha. Her beauty and grace help Matsumi realize her goal and soon she is called to Java by a Japanese general to provide him with pleasure while waging war. She works at a club on Kembang Jepun until Sujono sees her. He is immediately taken by her exotic loveliness. They, too, have a child, and are torn apart by desire and jealousy while Indonesia struggles for its first breaths as a new nation.

(12) Saman: A Novel
by Ayu Utami, translated by Pamela Allen
184 page(s)
Published Aug 15, 2005 by Equinox Publishing

Originally published as Saman

Saman tells stories about four urban middle class women who have been best friend from schools, and their connection to Saman, an ex Catholic priest turned activist. Saman is hunted by the military regime. The female characters in this story help him to flee abroad. The novel is set in the era of General Soeharto.

Saman won the best novel competition of The Jakarta Arts Council in 1998. The jury considered its narrative form and the opennes of its content as a breakthrough that had expanded the horizon of the Indonesian literature. It is considered to be daring in tackling the issues ranging from politic, religion and sexuaIity. I was awarded the Prince Claus Award in 2000 for the same consideration.Saman was a national bestseller. It has gone to 32 reprint in 16 years. Saman has been published in Dutch, Japanese, English, French, Italy, Chzechs, German, Korean, and, will soon in Amharic (Ethiopia).

(13) Spinner of Darkness & Other Tales
by Intan Paramaditha, translated by Pauline Kurbasik Stephen J. Epstein
212 page(s)
Published Oct 05, 2015 by BTW Books

Intan Paramaditha’s stories are infused with gothic and horror themes. Depicted with a feminine sensibility, the majority of her protagonists are femme fatales or madwomen in the attic who do not fit the social order. Her stories contain twists that both delight and disturb. A trilingual edition in English, German and Indonesian.

(14) Supernova: The Knight, the Princess and the Falling Star
by Dee Lestari, translated by Harry Aveling
244 page(s)
Published Jun 01, 2011 by Lontar Foundation

Originally published as Supernova: Kesatria, Puteri, dan Bintang Jatuh

Supernova: The Knight, The Princess and the Falling Star presents a series of intertwined and unconventional love stories, straight and gay, with a bit of science and spirituality added to the mix. The major characters are young, urban, and technologically highly aware. They are caught up in major forms of contemporary social conflict.

(15) The Question of Red: A Novel
by Laksmi Pamuntjak
556 page(s)
Published Mar 24, 2014 by Gramedia Pustaka Utama

Originally published as Amba: Sebuah Novel

The Question of Red tells the story of two lovers, Amba and Bhisma, driven apart by one of the bloodiest Communist purges in the 20th century the massacres that took place in Indonesia between 1965 and 1968 in which some 1 million people were killed. From rural Java and Yogyakarta to the prison camps of Buru Island, where some 12,000 alleged Communists were incarcerated without trial during the Suharto administration, the lives of the central characters interpret the Mahabharata that timeless allegory of war within a family with a modern twist. Published in Indonesian last year as Amba: Sebuah Novel, Laksmi Pamuntjak’s novel has enjoyed three reprinting within four months.

and collection from Works in Translation in our database

The Story of a Tongue
Clara Ng, translated by Maggie Tiojakin
Published as a part of Crossing Boundaries: New Voices from Indonesia, Oct 14, 2016
Originally published in Koran Tempo, Jun 20, 2010 as Risalah Lidah.

La Runduma
Wa Ode Wulan Ratna, translated by Pamela Allen
Published as a part of Crossing Boundaries: New Voices from Indonesia, Oct 14, 2016
First published in Cari Aku di Canti as La Runduma.

Langit Amaravati, translated by Toni Pollard
Published as a part of Crossing Boundaries: New Voices from Indonesia, Oct 14, 2016
First published in Payudara as Air Mata Air Mata.

The Apple and the Tree
Cicilia Oday, translated by Dwiputri Pertiwi
Published as a part of Diverse Indonesia: Next Generation, Apr 24, 2016
Originally published as Buah dan Pohonnya.

The Embrace of the Rengas Tree
Dwi Ratih Ramadhany, translated by Linda Lingard
Published as a part of Diverse Indonesia: Next Generation, Jan 16, 2016
First published in Pemilin Kematian as Biaju Direngkuh Rengas Sungai Kahayan.

From Abidah El Khalieqy’s Mataraisa
Abidah El Khalieqy, translated by Joan Suyenaga
Published as a part of Reformations: Indonesian Literature in Translation, Nov 06, 2015
First published in Mataraisa


Abidah El Khalieqy, translated by Joan Suyenaga
Published as a part of Myth and History: Writing from Indonesia, Aug 01, 2015
First published in Geni Jora as Gendhis.

The Moon and the Magician in the Red Jacket
Clara Ng, translated by Pamela Allen
Published as a part of Myth and History: Writing from Indonesia, Aug 01, 2015
Originally published in Cerpen Koran Tempo, Mar 07, 2010 as Penjual Dongeng.

A Tale of Redemption
Mona Sylviana, translated by Toni Pollard
Published as a part of Myth and History: Writing from Indonesia, Aug 01, 2015
Originally published in Cerpen Koran Tempo, Dec 29, 2013 as Dongeng Penebusan.

False Landing
Dorothea Rosa Herliany, translated by Claire Potter
Published as a part of Cordite Poetry Review — 40.1: INDONESIA, Nov 04, 2012
Originally published as Pendaratan yang Salah.

Cok Sawitri, translated by John H. McGlynn
Published as a part of Tropical Currents: Writing by Indonesian Women, Jan 01, 2009
First published in Mata yang Indah: Cerpen Pilihan KOMPAS 2001 as Rahim.

Visiting a Haunted House
Intan Paramaditha, translated by Stephen J. Epstein
Published as a part of Asymptote Journal – Summer 2017, Jul 18, 2017