By Kristín Svava Tómasdóttir
Translated from the Icelandic by K.B. Thors
Herostories reveals tales untold by most history books: the harrowing journeys and vital triumphs of 19th and 20th century midwifery in the vast landscape of Iceland.
Publication Date: 3/21/23
Composed from the memoirs and biographies of 100 Icelandic midwives, poet-historian Kristín Svava Tómasdóttir’s found poems illuminate the dangers and valor of birthwork. Forgoing traditional sagas of androcentric conquest, these poems center the adventures of ljósmæður, “mothers of light.” Tómasdóttir leverages epic elements—dashing mountain treks, rivers forded on horseback, unyielding compassion—to challenge how and by whom stories become legend.
The follow-up to Tómasdóttir/Thors’ award-winning, PEN-nominated Stormwarning, Herostories documents the professional achievements of the island’s first women to work outside the home, precursors to today’s midwives who remain central to contemporary Icelandic healthcare.
Beyond archival recognition, the text's formally ambitious poetics render gender-based battles for literacy and education alongside narratives of selfless womanly caretaking, pressurizing the fundamental tensions between feminine self-actualization and the romanticized service of these trailblazing figures.
Kristín Svava Tómasdóttir is a poet and historian in Reykjavík, Iceland. She has published four books of poetry: Blótgælur (2007), Skrælingjasýningin (2011), Stormviðvörun (2015) and Hetjusögur (2020), the latest one being awarded the Icelandic Women´s Prize for Fiction. Stormviðvörun was translated into English by K.B. Thors as Stormwarning and published in a bilingual edition in the United States by Phoneme Media in 2018. For her translation, Thors won the American-Scandinavian Foundation‘s Leif and Inger Sjöberg Award and was longlisted for the PEN America Literary Award for translated poetry.
K.B. Thors is the author of Vulgar Mechanics (Coach House Books, 2019) and translator of Soledad Marambio’s Chintungo: The Story of Someone Else (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2017and Kristín Svava Tómasdóttir’s Stormwarning (Phoneme, 2018), winner of the American Scandinavian Foundation’s Leif and Inger Sjöberg Prize and nominee for the 2019 PEN Literary Award for Poetry in Translation.