From histories to novels, new titles address readers of all ages

A is for animal kingdom; B is for book; S is for series

As a former University of Denver gymnast, Ashley Dunlap (BS ’04) has seldom faced a hurdle she couldn’t overcome. So, when she felt the urge to dabble in children’s literature, Dunlap decided to write not one book but a whopping 26. 

Auggie and the Angry Alligator” and “Auggie and the Birthday Bear” kick off an ebook and paperback series targeted at tykes just beginning to explore the alphabet and the animal kingdom. Each of the books will take Auggie and readers to the zoo, where the wildlife romps the gamut from aardvarks to zebras. Dunlap envisions books with simple lessons for toddlers and some advanced concepts to keep them reading once they can tumble independently over a few words.

In conceptualizing the series, Dunlap drew on her memories of reading, her experience as a mother, and her own life as an aquarium worker and zookeeper. While at DU, she interned at Denver’s Downtown Aquarium, which led to a job working with otters, tigers, a variety of birds and some fish. After three years there, she embarked on a seven-year stint at the Denver Zoo, an experience that informs her depiction of Auggie’s mother, a zookeeper who introduces her son to individual species while educating him about their plight in the wild. Readers, whether toddlers or their parents, might even learn a few things about a zoo professional’s challenging job.

“Zookeeping and training is a tough profession. There are always critics and you work very hard with very little,” Dunlap explains. “We were not only looking to help the animals right there in front of us but also out in the wild—not only by educating people but also by preserving genetic bloodlines in order to preserve species in hopes of eventual reintroduction into the wild.” 

In future volumes, look for Dunlap to shine a spotlight on two of her favorite critters: otters and sea lions.

Life abroad with the nation’s second president and first lady   

Jeanne Abrams, a professor with University Libraries and the Center for Judaic Studies, has a soft spot for the nation’s founding fathers and mothers—their political views, their legacies, their everyday lives. 

In her latest book, “A View From Abroad: The Story of John and Abigail Adams in Europe” (New York University Press, 2021), Abrams explores a formative 10-year European sojourn experienced by the couple before they became the country’s second president and first lady. 

Billed as the first book to focus exclusively on this period in the pair’s life, “A View From Abroad” spans the years 1778 to 1788, when John worked as a diplomat while Abigail remained in Massachusetts, joining him only for the last four years of his assignment.  To offer insight into the couple’s thinking, Abrams makes extensive use of the more than 1,000 letters the two exchanged before Abigail’s arrival in Europe. She also relies on the extensive correspondence Abigail conducted with her family after she joined her husband. In letters home, she expresses an acute longing for her country and its “purity in the Government and manners to which Europe has been long a stranger.” 

Via a blurb for the book, DU’s Adam Rovner, a professor of English and Jewish literature, calls the history “a masterful account of how John and Abigail Adams’ domestic lives were forever altered by their cosmopolitan adventures in Europe” and notes how Abrams’ scholarship “plunges us into the Adams’ world, where intimate family dynamics and political power-plays entwined to mold the conscience of one of America’s greatest patriots.”

Tales of women in archaeology 

Historically, their male counterparts may have claimed most of the limelight, but women archaeologists have long done their part to unearth the past. 

Their contributions to and their experiences in the field are chronicled in a new book co-edited by Nicole Herzog, an assistant professor in DU’s anthropology department. “With Grit and Determination: A Century of Change for Women in Great Basin and American Archaeology” (University of Utah Press, 2020) treats readers to a number of narratives depicting how female researchers, ethnographers and field archaeologists have shaped the development of American and Great Basin archaeology. 

In chapters that illustrate the grit and determination reflected in the title, readers learn about how individual women toiled away in disciplines that were competitive, demanding and extremely rewarding. By sharing these stories, the book does more than simply record the challenges confronting these groundbreaking professionals. It also highlights the field’s many career opportunities and stimulates conversation about how diversity and inclusion benefit archaeology and its sister disciplines.  

Exploring themes of women’s empowerment

In her new novel, “Unnatural Resources” (The Permanent Press, 2020), alumna Mindy Uhrlaub (BA ’91, MA ’97) ventures into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, deemed “the worst place in the world to be female,” to follow the fate of 11-year-old Therese, whose village has been leveled by an invading militia group and whose mother has been taken as a slave. Over the course of the novel, Therese embarks on an often perilous journey to reunite with her missing mother and brother. 

Described as “a stunning and unflinchingly brutal redefinition of the meaning of family,” the novel grows out of Uhrlaub’s interest in humanitarian issues. She has traveled with Human Rights Watch and Eve Ensler’s V-Day to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where she collected testimonies from rape survivors and
child soldiers.

As Publishers Weekly noted, “Readers who like their fiction with a conscience will want to take a look.”

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