Lauren Weeks is a senior at the university at Albany majoring in English with a double minor in history and African studies. She plans to use literature as means to help and uplift disenfranchised communities.
Favorite writers: Toni Morrison, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, George Orwell
Favorite poets: Edgar Allan Poe, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon
Books that I’ll keep forever: King, Kaiser, Tsar by Catrine Clay, Beloved by Toni Morrison, and Corregidora by Gayl Jones
Talking with books
By Lauren Weeks
Oftentimes, when one hears the word book you envision something peaceful and calming. I can say that my experience at the Albany Book Festival was anything but.
As a volunteer my first task was to blow up balloons to place around the campus. Initially, a daunting task for someone like myself, it quickly became a fun exchange among the other volunteers. We exchanged names and joked as we equally shared the struggles of blowing balloons. Once that task was done, we walked around the campus to place the balloons while simultaneously guiding visitors to the festival.
After helping visitors with directions and other general questions, I headed to the Parents Courtyard of the Campus Center for the Dance Party Kick-Off. Although it started at 10:00 am, the energy was at an all-time high. Eventually, I had joined the dance floor myself! The DJ, Radha Agrawal, revealed that she specialized in throwing early morning parties called Daybreakers, which was interesting to me because I had never heard of them. Then she revealed that she was a part of the book festival by revealing her own book, Belong: Find Your People, Create Community, and Live a More Connected Life.
She discussed her inspiration for writing this book, which was her parents and their inability to find a home for themselves in the neighborhood she grew up in. She stressed the importance of understanding how a lack of community could be detrimental to one’s being and affect the strongest of people, even parents, thought to be invincible.
Next, I wandered the Campus Center, still fulfilling my duties of guiding the visitors, when I spotted the table of Pulitzer Prize winner, Colson Whitehead. This was exciting for me because in my English course on Slave Narratives, I had the pleasure of reading Underground Railroad, an absolutely amazing novel. Meeting the author was a surreal experience.
The History Panel included authors Keisha N. Blain, Annette Gordon-Reed, Gilbert King and Terry Golway. It was a mentally stimulating panel that focused not only on history but the future, as well as racism, feminism, and journalism.
Each author demonstrated the necessity of telling the American story without delegitimizing the truth. Thus, the message I left the panel with was that literature is a tool for recovering the voices that history left out.
This highlighted how books can be a bridge to a deeper understanding of humanity. As I stated before with Underground Railroad, it is our ability to refer to the literature of the past that help us to understand where we have been and where we are going as people, who respect and understand each other.
Reading provides the ability to point out trends in society in attempt to rectify them and/or alter them, which is an essential part of moving towards a society that advocates for gender equality, eradication of racism, and other forms of improvements.