THU—April 25—7 PM, free


MoreLectures + Literary

Join us for a book talk with Icelandic poet and historian Kristín Svava Tómasdóttir and translator and ASF Translation Prizewinner K.B. Thors on Herostories! With moderator Larissa Kyzer (also an ASF Translation Prizewinner), Tómasdóttir and Thors will discuss this new work out now from Vellum Press revealing tales untold by most history books: the harrowing journeys and vital triumphs of 19th- and 20th-century midwifery in the vast landscape of Iceland.

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. 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.

The follow-up to Tómasdóttir and Thors’ award-winning, PEN-nominated Stormwarning, Herostories documents the professional achievements of Iceland’s first women to work outside the home, precursors to today’s midwives who remain central to contemporary health care on the island.

“Kristín Svava Tómasdóttir has done the seemingly impossible: taken our contemporary capitalist culture, suffused with moralism as well as not-so-hidden prejudice, glorying in its achievements while squandering its wealth, and submitted it to critique while making us laugh at the whole thing” (Magdalena Kay, World Literature Today).


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, 2017 and 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.


Larissa Kyzer is a writer and Icelandic to English literary translator. Her translation of Kristín Eiríksdóttir’s A Fist or a Heart was awarded the American-Scandinavian Foundation’s 2019 Translation Prize. The same year, she was one of Princeton University’s Translators in Residence. Her translation of Sigríður Hagalín Björnsdóttir’s The Fires was released in 2023 and will be followed by Fríða Ísberg’s The Mark in 2024. Larissa has received grant funding and support from the Fulbright Commission, the Icelandic Ministry of Education and Culture, the Icelandic Literature Center, and Finland’s Kone Foundation. She is a former co-chair of PEN America’s Translation Committee, an at-large board member of the American Literary Translators Association, and runs the virtual Women+ in Translation reading series Jill!