But nowadays, a sprakki needs health insurance, and Reid focuses equally on the political factors that bring about equality: the paid leave granted to both parents, whether they are working or not; the health care for life. These coexist with a sense of communal responsibility for children and a liberating absence of sexual stigma – teenagers regularly spend the night with their sexual partners, and single parents are generally accepted.
Reid is careful to point out where Iceland falls short: Women still do most of the household chores, earn less money than men, and hold fewer leadership positions in the nation's largest companies. But the pressures of work and family that hinder women in so many other countries seem less present and widespread there. Why Iceland was more willing than, say, the United States to provide a social safety net for its citizens, a question not answered here-but Reid argues persuasively that without one, there can be no equality.
At its core, Reid's book is also a "love letter" from an immigrant to a country affected by the insecurity she calls the "Small Nation Complex". (Most of the country stayed up all night when Iceland won its first Oscar in 2020.) And like all love letters, it shines when it's personal. The most vivid sense of Iceland's unique approach to gender comes from Reid's own experiences: Walking past the conference room in her first job there and seeing the CEO breastfeeding a baby while she ran the meeting without anyone batting an eye. How she dutifully rushes to a doctor as soon as she is pregnant, only to be waved away by the doctor with "a thoroughly northern hands-off approach" and sent to a (free) midwife. How she understands community attitudes toward parenting by seeing her neighbors leave their babies in strollers on the lawns outside their buildings, knowing that any stranger who sees a crying child will help instead of dialing 112 (the European equivalent of 911). Your newcomer's delight in Icelandic details will charm readers throughout, from explaining nomenclature (you'll finally understand the dottir methodology!) to Nordic idioms ("never peed in a salty sea" for someone with little experience; "quarter to three" for that moment of dating at the end of a night; "Reykjavik handshake" for chlamydia, the unfortunately widespread effect of too much quarter to three).
The same loving tone drives Reid's conversations with the dozens of people sprakkar She traverses her island to conduct an interview. These conversations – over cardamom donuts and Christmas buffets – introduce us to a wide and varied range of Icelandic women: Shearers, sewing club members, sea captains, search-and-rescue directors, the rap collective Daughters of Reykjavik. And they show memorable moments: the president of the university's student council, originally from El Salvador, whose political ambitions have dwindled after a sexism scandal in parliament; the professional soccer player who travels to Germany and is shocked to see the inferior facilities for female athletes there; the interviewee who points out that Iceland is more tolerant because of its small size – "most people in Iceland will meet a trans person," they say, to ease fear of the unknown; the knitting teacher turned sex counselor. (If you're not convinced that Iceland approaches sexuality differently than the United States, imagine the public reaction if Jill Biden wrote a book with a sex teacher or conducted her interviews in a "hot tub" or hot tub.)
The catalog of people and topics feels like an obligatory political listening tour in places, as the pressure to be a first lady – attuned to people's history rather than her own – creeps in at their expense special first lady who happens to be a feisty writer with her own story to tell. At one point she writes: "But none of this is about me." It's a tribute to her voice that you hope is her next book.