Rene Kanzler is a junior at the University at Albany. She is a double major through the Human Development and Latin American & Caribbean Studies programs, and has a minor in psychology. She is an after school teacher and plans to work in education.

“My favorite author is Rupi Kaur. Although I'm not usually attracted to poetry, she writes in such a beautiful manner, words cannot even explain. She's mainly known from her #1 New York Times bestseller Milk and Honey. This book of is a collection of poetry and her own drawings that discuss survival in a plethora of ways. Further, she elaborates on her relatable experiences of love, loss, violence, abuse, and femininity.”

The power of knowledge through reading and writing

By Rene Kanzler

At the Albany Book Festival in September 2018, I participated in numerous, enjoyable volunteer activities. I took part in greeting guests, assisting visitors with their direction inquiries, collaborating with other festival and volunteer attendees, as well as attending panels. I acquired great knowledge about how literary arts can bring about a deeper understanding of human beings. Prior to this event, I was already aware of the immense power of reading and writing. I was not, however, expecting to experience the power of books, the power of knowledge, and how it brings people together, all while learning about oneself.

First, during the food panel, I sat and listened to four incredible authors speak about their experiences with cooking. I came to terms with how cooking can be an extraordinary emotional experience. Leyla Moushabeck described how while cooking, there are a multitude of heart-rending and heart-warming moments encountered. For some, they may reminisce on the times that were spent cooking this meal before with their peers, the ways in which it was passed down from generation to generation, and the way in which they must adapt to certain ingredients.

Furthermore, I learned about the significance of educating children about cooking from Francis Lam. While teaching children how to cook, children are provided insight on the love of food, mathematical skills, cultural awareness, as well as providing a bonding experience. Michael W. Twitty clarified how cooking teaches life skills and lessons- through failing, making mistakes, respecting a food narrative, embarking upon a food journey, and becoming in touch with one’s culture, history, and identity.

Additionally, during the history panel, the remarkable panelists helped me come to a better understanding of several important issues. I now understand how current events regarding Trump’s presidency offer proof of history repeating itself. As Keisha N. Blain explained it, there was a tremendous backlash of hatred towards African Americans once the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case was ruled. This ties into the political backlash of President Obama’s terms and how Republicans have turned to an extreme candidate to pursue their goals.

Blain further explained the 1954 case ruling, how it led to a resurgence of the KKK, and noted that during President Trump’s term, there was a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Other historians, such as Pulitzer prize-winners Annette Gordon-Reed, Gilbert King, and Terry Golway mentioned why it is so difficult for minorities to have their voices heard. Their revelation explained the challenge for historians to recover voices that America has purposely left behind and ignored.

Another panel I witnessed was the young adult panel. I found this to be the most relatable panel since young adult novels have always been a personal favorite. In the discussions, I asked Katie Henry and Lygia Day Peñaflor to elaborate on their experiences as young adult novel authors and their tips to how they succeeded. These women gave insight on how to overcome issues among writers. For example, in order to combat writer’s block, they suggested keeping oneself busy, taking a break from writing, and to make sure the individual is enjoying their time spent writing.

Further, the writers also explained how social media followers don’t matter as much as most would imagine, how publishing takes much longer than expected, and that their careers consist of more self-promotion than book-promotion. I feel it’s important to acknowledge that the authors admitted social media followers do not matter to one’s career, lives, or success. But, when an individual believes they are not destined for success because of their social media account or followers, this confirms a devastating issue within our society. I believe self-promotion is what leads to the most success.

The Albany Book Festival helped me see the way in which reading and writing can be a self-discovery process. I rediscovered my true love of reading and writing and my hope to write my own young adult novel. During this event, I realized how much I appreciated the time spent coming together with my local community to appreciate the authors who tie humanity together.

The Albany Book Festival was a reminder of how I have always admired community service, learning different perspectives from new people, and exploring unique ideas from people of vastly different demographics. Perhaps my love of these activities has led me to where I am today; I intend on becoming an elementary school teacher with degrees in Special Education and Latin American and Caribbean Studies and a minor in Psychology. My degrees will provide others with an exclusive perspective and contribute towards a better society.

Trolley c/o NYS Writers Institute

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University at Albany

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Trolley web design: Michael Huber

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