Georja Umano’s recently published book, “Terriers in the Jungle,” her first novel, has been wildly well received, winning three prizes: First Place Winner in Animal Fiction: The BookFest 2022 and the Pinnacle Award 2022: Best Book in Animals & Pets (Natl. Assoc. of Book Entrepreneurs), and a Silver Medal, IPPY from the Independent Producers Association, very prestigious, indeed. This is a charming story that has sprinklings of unique drawings throughout. Getting to know Roxie and Romeo was a great adventure.
About Georja Umano-
Georja Umano is an animal activist who has organized, spoken and written about animals and animal causes in the US, Italy and Kenya, especially in the fields of elephant and wildlife conservation. She is also a film, TV and theatre actress and stand-up comedian as well as teacher and journalist. She has earned a B.A. in English Literature at LeMoyne College and an M.A. in Educational Theatre at New York University.
“Terriers in the Jungle” tells the story of Kate, a dedicated animal conservationist who moves her family to Kenya from L.A. to do what she can to save endangered elephants. Kate’s two rescue dogs, Roxie and Romie tell the story of their journey and their stay. The reader learns from the terriers about the contrast of life in L.A. and life in Africa including people, places and other animals. Looking at the world through the terrier’s perspective is a meaningful and unusual experience.
Georja Urmano graciously agreed to answer questions related to this new book.
You and your husband spent two years in Africa. What was your primary goal in arranging this stay?
The primary reason we went was I wanted to be near and find ways to help elephants. I’d been an elephant advocate for many years and co organized elephant and wildlife marches, spoken at events. Gerald and I traveled to Kenya several times as I was writing articles for Splash Magazines about elephant conservation and travel there.
Terriers in the Jungle is your first novel. What prompted your decision to write a novel?
When we moved to Kenya, I wanted to do a project there. I thought it would be a video project about the way various communities deal with human animal conflict. But I’m not a videographer and couldn’t find the right set up to do it by myself. I wanted to work at Sheldrick. Wildlife Trust or with one of the several conservationists I had interviewed but the government of Kenya was not giving work permits to foreigners in conservation at that time. I was offered a job as Environmental Director of a rescue group for young girls who were raped and had babies. They never return to school. They are in the population of rural less educated farmers who build homesteads and farms on the ancient migratory routes of the animals, and when the unsuspecting elephants eat their crops who are on their route, some farmers end up shooting them. I figured I could teach the girls about nature and wildlife and to become caretakers for these treasures.
Is this novel directed to any specific age or cultural group?
I wanted people to learn more about conservation and how amazing rescued dogs can be. It turns out many have told me it’s good for kids. One friend said she wanted to get a copy for her 6-year-old grandson. (It’s a very literate family!) It mostly appeals to animal and nature lovers, which happens to include very many children.
In the novel you allow the story of the time in Africa to be told by your two terriers. What are the terriers able to share with the readers that you can’t share directly?
Their dialogue shows their personalities their smarts, their hopes and fears when they talk about their experiences themselves. It was also fun to imagine what they are thinking. They’re my best friends– I am very tuned into them. And I have watched them go through many changes since I adopted them.
Your terriers are rescue terriers. Is there anything about this process that you would like to share?
Rescue dogs are so endearing.
You are the recent recipient of three book awards. Can you share some of your thoughts about these honors?
Awards are wonderful to receive.. Not too many months ago I didn’t know how I was going to get it published and now three awards! The two first place awards from Book Fest and Pinnacle Awards are great. The Silver Medal award is from IPPY, Independent Publisher Book Award, and I’m very proud of that since they are labeled the largest book award competition in the world.
Photos are courtesy of Georja Umano
Check Georja Umano’s website for updates about Roxie and Romie’s next adventures.