Great Translations: Single Moms — Four Stories

Jim Fonseca
12 min readAug 16, 2022
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The issues single moms face can be remarkably alike across cultures. In my reading of translated books I’ve come across four that talk about single moms facing various kinds of difficulties and handing them in different ways. Who knows? Maybe some of these books offer ideas or perhaps hope for other women in similar situations.

So here are four book reviews; two from Japan, one from France and one from the Czech Republic. Three are by women, one by a man. All are good reads offering psychological insight.

I should say the following reviews contain minor spoilers. However, these aren’t necessarily books we read just for their plot; rather, we read to understand the situations these young woman face and their various responses to the inevitable difficulties.

Woman Running in the Mountains by Yuko Tsushima

We’re in Tokyo in the late 1970s. A young woman is pregnant by a married man. She has screaming matches with her parents but refuses to have an abortion or to give the baby up for adoption. This was extremely unusual in Japan at the time. We are told in a footnote that in 1980, when this book was published, the rate of births to unwed mothers in Japan was less than 1% while in the US it was 18%. (I looked it up: in 2020 the figures are around 3% in Japan and 40% in the US.)

Her family situation is focused around a peculiar kind of abuse. (She’s around 20 years old when the story starts.) She and her alcoholic father, a small man, have knock-down, dragged-out fist fights including wresting, hair pulling and bloody noses. Her mother screams while this goes on and eventually her teen-age brother, bigger than her father, separates them.

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Even after she has had her baby she ends up in the emergency room for injuries one night. She survives in the house because her father is away most of the day drinking. She avoids him and keeps to her room with the baby.

The situation damages her relationship with her mother. Her mother has to work to keep the family going financially. The young woman flies into rages…

Jim Fonseca

Geography professor (retired) writes The One Minute Geographer featuring This Fragile Earth. Top writer in Transportation and, in past months, Travel.