Photography by Jeff Hunt
Rachele Kanigel comes from a long line of readers.
In this podcast, Rachele shares her life story with us. Today, she's the chair of the Journalism Department at SF State. She's published The Diversity Style Guide, among other books. She also was one of Jeff's teachers back in 2005 when he went to SF State, so there's that.
Rachele was born in Brooklyn and raised in a suburb of New York City on the New Jersey side of the Hudson. Her mom did some substitute teaching, and at home, loved to read books and poetry. She also liked to play Scrabble. She passed that on in one way or another to Rachele and her two older brothers.
Her oldest brother was 15 when Rachele was born, so she didn't grow up with him around much. Fairlawn, NJ, a middle-class suburb, never resonated much with young Rachele. Nearby NYC provided the contrast and escape she needed. She'd visit museums, Broadway shows, off-Broadway shows, cafes, jazz clubs ... but what she loved most was simply walking the streets of the big city.
She was so anxious to get out of suburbia that she found a college that would accept high school juniors, and she bailed. After a year at school on Long Island, she got into McGill University in Montreal. Rachele loved it there—the cafes, the Québecois. But there was something pulling her west toward California.
One of her brothers was in San Francisco and somewhat estranged from the family. But Rachele wanted to reconnect by visiting him here. It was May 1980 and she was 19. The plan was to visit for two weeks. But that turned into three months.
It was a summer of meeting people, finding a boyfriend, going to the Gorilla Grotto ... John Law's (Part 1/Part 2) name comes up as someone in that scene whom Rachele met back in the day. That fall, she took a journalism class at SF State and was hooked. She worked on the student newspaper and graduated a few years later with a bachelor's in journalism. Now, it was time to work. She found a copy-editing job at a shopping paper called The San Francisco Progress. The paper eventually gave Rachele a reporting beat. She took it and ran and never looked back.
Check back Thursday for Part 2 and the conclusion of Rachele's story.
We recorded this podcast at Rachele's home in Oakland in January 2021.