University of Houston-Victoria junior Byanka Campos clutched her new book in her hand after her professor loaned her money for the purchase because she forgot her wallet.
"She speaks of a way of growing up," Campos, 25, said. "It gives you a taste of her life and what is normal for her."
Ru Freeman, a Sri Lankan writer and activist, was the 101st speaker at the American Book Review reading series Thursday in the Alcorn Auditorium.
Campos attended the event because she is a fan of Freeman and plans to be a writer.
"I asked her about writer's block," she said. "She told me there's no such thing because you are writing all the time."
Freeman read "The Hill Secret," a section from her novel "On Sal Mal Lane."
Before the reading, Freeman placed on the lectern a gold bird she found at a Salvation Army when she was looking for an alternative pair of shoes to the high heels she was wearing.
She chose to read the selection because it shows how little changes can do good or bad depending on where a person goes, she said.
The narrative is told with a focus on the children, Freeman said.
Her journey into writing and promoting social justice is more about skill than inspiration, Freeman said.
When she was growing up, her family did not have much money, so she would write, she said.
Writers should write about what they are passionate about, she said.
"No one is standing there watching you read. You can read anything," she said. "Literature is such an important way to inhabit a world in the privacy of your own mind, which is a critical way of changing how we think about things."