Transit Books is a young press—it was founded in 2015 with the aim of bringing an open-minded and international sensibility to an industry that is notorious for its insularity and resistance to the unknown. The risk of starting a new business and choosing to focus on the areas that conventional wisdom describes as the most challenging (translations, novellas, literary and narrative nonfiction) paid off for Transit Books. The fiction and nonfiction that they publish all display a powerful intimacy that perhaps is one explanation for their unlikely successes. One of their first books, Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and several others had prominent critical acclaim and sales success.
My personal affection for Transit (barring their fantastically pleasing and consistent cover design) comes from their publishing approach and editorial sensibility. Transit is a press that thinks carefully about the particularities of publishing work in translation without obsessing over difference and over-emphasizing the exotic to feed an ignorant market. They put care and attention into editing their translators and producing readable, pleasing, artful books, but do not then rely on translation as a novelty selling point. They choose to publish work that often does not relate in obvious ways to the perception that the US has of the authors’ countries of origin, and they publish work that doesn’t easily fit into the same worldview that supports those stereotypes.
Recommended reads from Transit Books:
Such Small Hands by Andrés Barba—a surreal novel about the violence of girlhood in a Spanish boarding school
Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi—an expansive and immersive historical fiction of the Buganda Kingdom
Axiomatic by Maria Tumarkin—a collection on digressive, critical essays on intimacy, grief, and peculiarity
The Dinner Guest by Gabriela Ybarra—an autobiographical novel about family secrecy, terror, and memory