Back in December 2014, Words without Borders (WWB) released their first International YA issue featuring eight pieces from around the globe. “Around the Globe: International YA Writing” is a collection of short stories and other fiction writing that focuses on teens around the world, from Germany to Bangladesh to Sweden.
The feature, which took over a year to complete, received record hits and generated talks about another YA installment.
All of that would not have been possible without the work of the guest editors behind it: Briony Everroad and Daniel Hahn. While Hahn is known for his work on The Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature, Everroad was actually the one to approach WWB about a YA-centric issue.
“I’ve always loved books for young adults – probably inspired by my reading as a young teenager – and it seemed a shame that so few of these books were traveling beyond their home countries/languages,” Everroad stated, recalling how the idea came about.
Planning for the December 2014 issue began in 2013. During that time, Everroad and Hahn worked on finding and extracting literature that fell into the young adult genre – which they defined as writing focusing on and told through the perspective of people ages 12 – 18.
“I worked out a huge list of adult fiction foreign rights contacts by country and asked them to put me in touch with their YA counterparts. I then asked for recommendations of recent favorite YA novels,” explained Everroad. “I also approached cultural organizations, such as Norla, in Oslo, and translators I had worked with in the past. It wasn’t hard to find people passionate about YA from around the world.”
“In some cases I had to explain what YA was as it’s a new concept for lots of countries, where books are traditionally separated into works for adults and those for very young children.”
She also ran into other challenges, such as trying to find non-educational books in Africa, where the publishing model is much different. Another struggle was trying to get a hold of Arabic texts. There, the agent/publisher connection is different than that of the Western models.
Still, if she was given the chance to work on another project like this one, she already has other countries in mind. “I’d like to focus on more targeted geographical areas, for example Southeast Asia,” she stated. This time though, she would know to go in and define YA literature for those not familiar with it.
For now, Everroad is happy with the recent issue. “I was thrilled that WWB had such a positive response to the issue. There is so much great YA writing out there, and it was wonderful to bring some of those authors to an Anglophone audience.”
For more, check out the Words without Borders International YA Issue here.