University Press Week: Where Does Your Press #SpeakUP – Regional Authors and Regional History

The inaugural Robert Mortensen Book Prize is awarded to Camilla Townsend, co-author of On the Turtle’s Back: Stories the Lenape Told Their Grandchildren, published in 2023.

Rutgers University Press was proud to present Camilla Townsend with the inaugural Robert Mortenson Book Prize during the 2023 Rutgers University Celebration of Scholarship and during Native American Heritage Month.

The Lenape‘s historical territory included present-day northeastern Delaware, all of New Jersey, the eastern Pennsylvania regions of the Lehigh Valley and Northeastern Pennsylvania, and New York Bay, western Long Island, and the lower Hudson Valley in New York state. Today they live in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Ontario.

The authors are Rutgers professor Camilla Townsend and Delaware (Lenape) Tribe member Nicky Kay Michael. Dozens of pages of notes from M.R. Harrington, who worked to hear and preserve Indigenous stories in the early 1900s, are housed in the National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian) archives today. The book delves into the history of the Delaware people, M.R. Harrington’s work, and tells the folklore stories that were preserved. 

More information about the book can be heard here in the interview that Townsend and Michael did for WNYC’s All of It with Alison Stewart for Indigenous Peoples Day this year.

On The Turtle’s Back is a part of RUP’s “Ceres: Rutgers Studies in History” series. New Jersey holds a unique place in the American story. The region’s historical development makes it a microcosm of the challenges and possibilities of the nation, and it also reflects the complexities of the modern, cosmopolitan world. And despite promising scholarship done at the local level, New Jersey history often remains hidden in plain sight. It is our hope that this series will help New Jersey authors #SpeakUp about the state’s fascinating and rich collection of ideas, innovations, people, and politics.

About the Robert Mortensen Book Prize

In honor of the memory of Robert Mortensen ED ’63, a strong supporter of Rutgers University, its libraries, and scholarship, Rutgers University Press has established this prize, to be awarded annually to a Rutgers University faculty member who has published a book with the Press in the previous three years. The prize is administered by Rutgers University Press and is selected by a committee of staff members of the Press. The prize is presented at the annual Celebration of Scholarship at Rutgers University Library, and the prize winner delivers the keynote address at the celebration’s opening reception.

See where other University Presses #SpeakUp at University of Nebraska Press, University of Illinois Press, Columbia University Press, University of Alabama Press, University of Notre Dame Press, and Johns Hopkins University Press.