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What is Jólabókaflóð?

By C.V. Lee
December 11, 2020

What is jólabókaflóð? Honestly, the first time I saw jólabókaflóð, I thought is was either some kind of acronym, or someone’s two-year-old had gotten ahold of a smart phone or computer keyboard. But actually it’s an Icelandic word for “yule book flood.”

Quoting from the readitforward website:

“Jólabókaflóð, or “Yule Book Flood,” originated during World War II when foreign imports were restricted, but paper was cheap. Iceland’s population was not large enough to support a year-round publishing industry, so book publishers flooded the market with new titles in the final weeks of the year. While giving books is not unique to Iceland, the tradition of exchanging books on Christmas Eve and then spending the evening reading is becoming a cultural phenomenon. In recent years the meme has spread on social media, and bookworms around the world are cottoning on to the idea. (If you’re wondering how to pronounce jólabókaflóð, the phonetic pronunciation is yo-la-bok-a-flot.”

Jolabokaflod PDX is an annual holiday book fair for authors to share information about their craft and readers to discover great books to share with friends and loved ones as gifts. Due to the restrictions of the pandemic, this year’s fair will be held online, allowing the whole world to attend, not just folks from the Pacific Northwest. Our Paper Lantern Writers will be hosting two panels, that can be viewed live on Facebook and YouTube. Read on for the links to our panels and a preview of the subject matter.

Linda Ulleseit shares that she’s always loved the idea of Iceland’s Jolabokaflod, or Christmas Book Flood.

In Iceland, people spend Christmas Eve reading and drinking hot chocolate. In my family, we open presents on Christmas Eve, but if my sons were still small I’d spend Christmas Eve the Icelandic way! This year, I’ll be on a panel with Kathryn for Portland’s JolabokaflodPDX. Our panel, Finding Women’s Voices, will showcase all kinds of historical fiction from a woman’s perspective. In the past, most historical fiction was written about men, but more recently, the main character is a woman. Discover novels written about real women you’ve heard of, real women you haven’t heard of, and fictionalized women in real historic settings.

Along with Linda, Kathryn Pritchett will be talking about the untold stories of women in history. Much of history has focused on the exploits of famous men. When it comes to historical fiction about women, the subjects are often wives or mistresses attached to said famous men. But does that mean the stories of everyday women are just not interesting? No!

In 1976, Pulitzer-prize winning historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich wrote these oft-repeated words: “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” She has clarified that she didn’t say women should misbehave to be memorable. She wrote these words to highlight that less-famous women who make a positive impact are often overlooked by history.

Women out of the limelight experience all the comedy and tragedy of the more famous men and women in the history books. I’m fascinated by how they navigated the physical demands and cultural expectations of earlier eras. I love writing and reading these kinds of stories and look forward to sharing them at Jolabokaflod.

To watch and participate in the Finding Women’s Voices panel, you can click this link for the YouTube live feed and set a reminder for Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 11 a.m. PST.

Three of our Paper Lantern Writers are presenting a setting-based panel.

For Edie Cay, It’s all about books that transport the reader to a specific place or a specific time. Since Jodabokaflod is the word for the Yule time “book flood”–I’m excited to share some of my favorites and hear about other readers’ favorites as well. Since I am both an author and a reviewer, I am probably a harsher critic than most for what kind of book can whisk me away. While historical fiction is obviously my number one genre of choice, I also love science fiction and fantasy for the same reasons. A good setting can take you anywhere.

According to C.V. Lee, a good setting description can take a reader from an outsider looking in, to a participant in the story, experiencing the scene right along with the character. It’s not just about time, place and the weather, but about the five senses, the political climate and the cultural norms. We can learn a lot about a character by how they interact with their environment.

Along with Edie Cay and C.V. Lee, Ana Brazil will be sharing ideas about setting in historical fiction (formal title: Charm City: Historical Settings that Transport the Reader).

I’m still crafting my content, but I’m pretty sure I’ll discuss my fascination with ‘Cities as Characters’ and ‘Buildings as Characters’. My long-time study of history is firmly tied to my love for the ‘built environment’ (aka historical architecture) and how it impacts the people who live or work inside, or just pass by. I’m hoping that our discussion of setting will offer new ways of enjoying historical fiction!

We hope you’ll join us on Sunday, December 20, 2020 at 3:30 p.m. PST. Follow this link to the Jolabokaflod PDX YouTube channel hosting the live broadcast and set a reminder.

If for some reason you can’t join us live, the videos will be available to watch later. Happy Holiday Reading!

C.V. Lee
Written by C.V. Lee

C.V. Lee writes historical biographical fiction featuring forgotten heroes and heroines of the past. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Alli, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. You can find her on Facebook @cvlee.histficwriter and on Instagram @cvleewriter.

View CV’s PLW Profile

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