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Stories That Speak to Us: CAHSS Leaders Share Tales to Curl Up with Over Winter Break

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Susan Dugan


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Stories That Speak Winter

Stories told through literature, theatre, film, TV and podcasts can inspire and empower, connecting us deeply and reflectively with our personal and collective experience in ways that often reverberate throughout our lives. The College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (CAHSS) newsroom periodically asks CAHSS leadership, faculty, students and staff to contribute their recommendations in specific categories toward specific themes for our “Stories that Speak to Us” series.

As the DU community settles into winter and prepares to welcome a new year and quarter, we asked a few members of the CAHSS team to share their recommendations for captivating books, movies, TV shows and podcasts to curl up with on cold winter days and long winter nights. 

Paula Adamo headshot

Paula Adamo, associate dean and teaching professor, Spanish

For the past year, I've really enjoyed the Joy Lab Podcast. It's led by an integrative psychiatrist and psychologist who do a terrific job of offering science-based information to help better understand the complexities of the human experience. They also offer tools to build mindfulness, resilience and bring more joy to life. I've recommended it to faculty colleagues and students, too, since it's very accessible for wider audiences.

Cheryl Miller, associate dean and chief operating officer

Cheryl Miller headshot

One of the powerful things about literature is that it gives the reader a glimpse into the experiences of other people, time periods and cultures. In that vein, I offer three reads that challenged me to contemplate the experience of young adults coming of age in various time periods, navigating the complexity of geopolitics, societal and cultural norms and above all the ties of family.

“Solito,” Javier Zamora’s memoir chronicling his migration from a small town in El Salvador to “La USA to reunite with his parents, demonstrates the lengths families will go to be together and to find safety and security. The theme of family bonds and loyalties likewise abounds in Maggie O’Farrell’s historically based fictional novel, “The Marriage Portrait,” but with disastrous consequences for the young duchess Lucrezia de' Medici, who must navigate political intrigue and power consolidation of rivaling ruling families in Renaissance Italy. Staying in the historical fiction realm, Julia Alvarez’ novel, “In the Time of Butterflies,” weaves a narrative of four sisters during the time of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic in 1960. Through the sisters’ alternating perspectives, the author explores themes of power, injustice, gender roles and family relationships. 

Andrea Stanton, senior associate dean and associate professor, Islamic Studies and Digital Religion

Andrea Stanton headshot

I tend to read multiple books at once. My recent favorites include Zeyn Joukhadar’s “Map of Salt and Stars,” with a storyline that alternates between Syria during the early years of the Arab Spring’s popular uprising and a 12th-century map maker’s travels around the region. Because I’m always looking for ways to both be a better parent and feel better about my parenting, I also recommend Yael Schonbrun’s “Work, Parent, Thrive.” And finally, Sheila Johnson’s “Walk Through Fire” is a fierce, delightful memoir of music, resilience, entrepreneurship and civic engagement by the co-founder of BET (Black Entertainment Television). 

I’m not good at keeping up with current films, but one of my go-to favorites is “The Syrian Bride.” It’s in Arabic, Hebrew, French and English, so be ready for lots of subtitles and an engaging storyline that offers a loving and funny snapshot of life between Syria and Israel in the mid-2000s. It also stars lots of great, well-known actors, including Hiam Abbass, Ashraf Barhom and Uri Gavriel.



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