ALTA46 in Tucson: The Community of Words

This year, the 2003 conference of the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) was held in Tucson, Arizona; it was the first time I had ever attended in person, and wow! What an explosion of intelligence, friendship, networking, and overall good vibes.

The Marriott University Park was the perfect venue for this crowd of about three hundred literary translators from all over the country and the world, among them people I’ve admired for years, some of my idols, translators I had only ever met at online readings or meetings, and new friends.

I didn’t participate in most of the “extracurricular” events out on the town. First of all, I don’t drink, and there’s little more tedious than being the only sober person at an event. But the fundamental reason was that I preferred one-on-one meals with said idols and friends I was meeting for the first time: Suzanne Jill LevineRadhika YeddanapudiAmalia GladhartEmily HunsbergerGeorge HensonIlze Duarte, my publisher, poet Ghazal MosadeqKatherine HedeenElizabeth LoweClara BurgheleaAlex ZuckerCorine Tachtiris, Samantha Schnee, and Jessica Powell were only a few of the great writers, translators, and publishers I had the honor of spending five days with.

The biggest takeaway for me was that literary translation is a never-ending collaboration that only blossoms in an ecosystem in which translation is valued, supported financially, and treated as the act of writing that it is. We have a long way to go: Translators need and deserve more money and recognition for our work. We will only get to the promised land together, in solidarity with each other, funders, our authors, and publishers to cherish global literature.

If you need a tax-deductible donation for the end of the year, please consider giving generously to the ALTA. I also warmly recommend everyone to join PEN America, which is fighting the good fight against book banning and defending the freedom to write.

Happy holidays to one and all. Felices fiestas.

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