Books on a shelf

Wonderwork: Titles Worth Your Time 

June 27, 2022

In our series “Wonderwork,” CU Denver students, faculty, staff, and alumni recommend one book, podcast, television show, film, etc. that deserves more attention. Our ultimate goal is to promote a more diverse and inclusive book and media culture. To celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month, we’re focusing on works by LGBTQ+ creatives or about LGBTQ+ issues and experience. Nominate your favorite Wonderwork by emailing or posting on social media with #CUDenverWonderWork.  

CU Denver Alum Toby Tegrotenhuis on Natalie Diaz’ Pulitzer-Prize-winning Postcolonial Love Poem.  

Toby Tegrotenhuis

“Natalie Diaz is a queer, Mojave, and Latinx poet, a former professional basketball player, and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian community. ‘Postcolonial Love Poem’ thrums with potent physicality, both of the body and the land—which, as Diaz establishes in ‘The First Water Is the Body,’ are one and the same, exploited and politicized simultaneously.  

Diaz repurposes redacted government documents and guidebooks in poems like ‘exhibits from The American Water Museum.’ One segment of that poem, titled ‘Marginalia from the BIA Watermongers Congressional Records,’ decrees, ‘To kill [REDACTED], find the river and slit its throat / To kill [REDACTED] pollute their water with their daughters’ / busted drowned bodies washed up / on the shores, piece by piece.’ Water and national identity are inseparable: to kill one is to kill the other. 

The body is also a vessel for love and eroticism, often policed by white demands but still a place of beauty and adoration. Diaz’s speakers constantly praise all parts of their beloveds’ bodies, from their mouths to their hips. I adore these passages from ‘Wolf OR-7′: ‘A female gray wolf’s shoulders are narrower than a male’s, / but our mythos of shoulders began before I knew that, / when I broke open my mouth upon yours…In me a pack of wolves appeared and disappeared / over the hill of my heart. / I, too, follow toward where I am forever returning— / Her.’ 

‘Postcolonial Love Poem’ is, among so many things, a celebration of queer love and an open-hearted ode to the brown bodies that make it happen. This book aches with love for family, for land, for lovers, for water—indeed, it overflows with it.” 

– Toby Tegrotenhuis graduated from CU Denver in Spring 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, concentrating in poetry and communication. As a student, they copyedited for CU Denver’s student-run paper The Sentry and served as an associate editor for the national literary magazine Copper Nickel. Toby is a 2022 Lambda Literary Fellow in Poetry; their poems appear in or are forthcoming from The Allegheny Review, Glass Mountain, Collision Literary Magazine, and elsewhere. 

CU Denver Associate Professor of English Sarah Hagelin recommended the HBO series Gentleman Jack. 

Sarah Hagelin

“Based on The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister, ‘Gentleman Jack’ is the newest TV show from Sally Wainwright, the British dynamo behind ‘Happy Valley’ and ‘Scott and Bailey.’ The show has everything you want from binge-worthy TV humor, heart, and the best use of the fourth-wall (the imaginary barrier between a fictional work and its audience) since the incomparable Fleabag.  

Trust me: for pure swoon factor, Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy tramping across a field soaking wet has nothing on Suranne Jones as Ann Lister striding out of the mist toward her secret wife, Ann Walker, with the Yorkshire moors behind her.  

If you think you don’t care about coal fields in the north of England, or crumbling estates, or the lives of LGBTQ folks before those terms were part of the public conversation, you have another think coming.   

It’s funny, sexy, thoughtful, and profound. It will leave you laughing, thinking, and growing … in a word, transformed.”  

– Sarah Hagelin is associate professor of English and interim chair of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado Denver. She is the author (along with Gillian Silverman) of “The New Female Antihero: The Disruptive Women of Twenty-First-Century US Television” (University of Chicago Press, 2022) and of “Reel Vulnerability: Power, Pain, and Gender in Contemporary American Film and Television” (Rutgers University Press, 2013).  

CU Denver Associate Professor of English Gillian Silverman also recommended the HBO series Gentleman Jack.  

Gillian Silverman

“There’s a lot of wonderful new LGBTQ+ content on television these days, but to my mind, nothing is as compelling as ‘Gentleman Jack,’ created by Sally Wainwright and now in its second season on HBO. The series follows the historical figure of Anne Lister, a 19th-century English woman who’s sometimes referred to as ‘the first modern lesbian.’  

Lister was a powerhouse—a charismatic landed businesswoman who took an interest in coalmining and railways and who carried out numerous lesbian affairs before exchanging informal vows with Ann Walker, a wealthy heiress. In the HBO series Lister is played by the marvelous Suranne Jones, and it’s a treat to see her stride across the countryside of Halifax, pointing her cane, issuing orders, and generally being a badass. She’s a complicated, imperfect character who’s an utter joy to watch!” 

Gillian Silverman is associate professor of English and affiliate faculty in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the University of Colorado Denver.  She is also a University of Colorado President’s Teaching Scholar.  She teaches courses in American literature and culture, critical theory, and gender studies.  Her newest book—co-written with Sarah Hagelin—is “The New Female Antihero: The Disruptive Women of Twenty-First-Century US Television (University of Chicago Press, 2022).  

Assistant Professor of English Andrew Scahill on the award-winning documentary “Flee.”  

Andrew Scahill

“‘Flee,’ a 2021 award-winning documentary at Cannes and Sundance, tells the story of Amin, a queer refugee from Afghanistan, who has never shared his tale of trauma and survival—even keeping it from his partner of many years. The film employs rotoscoping animation (frame-by-frame tracing over live action footage) to protect Amin’s identity, and the style of the animation shifts and transforms in beautiful and haunting ways to tell his story.” 

Andrew Scahill, assistant professor of English, specializes in film studies. His work tends to focus on genre and reception (audiences), with a particular interest in representations of youth rebellion. He has served as coordinating editor for Velvet Light Trap and assistant editor for Literature/Film Quarterly.He has been published in multiple journals such as Cinema Journal, In Media Res, FLOW, Jump Cut, and Postscript. He is the author of “The Revolting Child in Horror Cinema: Youth Rebellion and Queer Spectatorship” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).