The Human Library is a worldwide project designed to challenge views that lead to misunderstanding, prejudice and discrimination within communities. For more information visit the Human Library Organization at http://humanlibrary.org
Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover
“Human Books” available to check out may include people who have experienced adversity due to race, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion/belief, culture, profession, and/or lifestyle. See the 2015 photo album on Flickr.
Human Book Catalog for April 12, 2015
“When I first moved to New Hampshire, I was pleasantly surprised to find a vibrant drag queen community. I jokingly told my friend, Seth, “I’ve discovered the culture of New Hampshire. It’s drag queens and covered bridges” That off–the-cuff joke was the spark for me to spend a year making my calendar to show what it is like to live in the Live Free or Die state. While working on my project, some people showed curiosity and acceptance but others welcomed my project with fear and disgust. In several communities, the project was met with closed–mindedness, with some bridges declared off limits. I consider my calendar to be a time slice of New Hampshire, exposing its beauty and its warts.”
“What do you get when you combine high SAT scores with graduating second from the bottom of a high school class? Or when you join the Army out of high school and then go on to become a high school administrator? Or when you start off as a social drinker in seventh grade and end up stealing and drinking mouthwash from dollar stores? Keith Howard is what you get. Executive Director of Liberty House, a transitional living facility for homeless veterans in Manchester, I have managed to return to respectability in the past eight years, after living on the street.
Homeless folks are often assumed to be intellectually limited and potentially dangerous. As an active alcoholic at the time, my intellect was occasionally impaired by booze but I wasn’t limited and the only danger I presented was to myself. As a veteran who spends a lot of time with politically liberal folks who went straight to college, I’ve been stereotyped as conservative, pro-violence and again, potentially dangerous.
With a quick sense of humor, a knowledge of paper and cardboard books and a background in improv theater, I look forward to the experience of serving as a human book where I will have the opportunity to demonstrate that prejudices are not always based on fact.”
“As a Jewish lesbian rabbi who became an adoptive mom at 53 to a daughter of Mexican descent, I have faced stereotyping, misunderstanding and prejudice on many levels. I was raised a Jew in a small, mostly Roman Catholic community in northern New Jersey, where I faced religious bias—everything from having pennies thrown at me to a classmate turning on gas jets in the chemistry lab as he shouted, “Hitler didn’t get enough of you!” I came out as a lesbian to myself when I was nine years old and since then, have lost friends, jobs and places to live because of my sexual orientation. As a rabbi, I am asked some fascinating questions like, “Can women really be rabbis?” and “Does this mean you are Jewish?” My daughter, now close to 14 months, is often assumed to be my granddaughter and with her Hispanic complexion, many people feel they have the right to ask, “so, like um, where is she from?” (She was born in Phoenix, Arizona!) I am open to both sharing my experiences and hearing questions from others, believing deeply that only through relationships, even brief ones, are we able to open hearts, minds, and souls.”
“One of three children born to a Japanese mother and father in the military, I arrived 3 ½ months premature. Due to an insufficient oxygen supply, I was given oxygen at a level that destroyed my optic nerves, leaving me completely blind.
As a child, not only was I emotionally and physically abused by my family, but was socially isolated and withdrawn. It was instilled in me that I would have to perform better than average to make up for my blindness. I was told I would have to go out of my way to be nice or face not being liked because of my handicap. Girls told me they wouldn’t date me because I was blind. In fact, I was told I couldn’t do much of anything because I was blind.
I learned early on that the one and only person I could count on was myself and that I didn’t need to compensate or apologize for who or what I am. I also learned that optimism and humor were the antidotes to many evils.
Being blind did not prevent me from completing college, marrying, having a family and running my own business. As an independent clinical social worker, I draw upon my own life experiences, treating others with compassion and empathy. I am living proof that it is possible to overcome real life hardships with hard work, personal responsibility and a positive outlook.”
“Most people look forward to their 21st birthday with joy at becoming an “adult”. They can now go to clubs and drink with their friends at the bar. As a recovering addict/alcoholic, social options like these are no longer available to me. I have restructured my social life to exclude alcohol and all the things that go with it, even if it means I miss out on going to my favorite club to dance. No one assumes someone at the age of 22 is committed to their sobriety, and I find myself having to explain more and more frequently why I can’t do this or that. There are many young people in recovery, and understanding the challenges we face as this specific demographic can help them continue their sobriety.
Addicts are notorious for lying, cheating, and stealing and as a recovered addict I face these assumptions on a fairly regular basis. I have found that the best way to promote understanding is to answer questions honestly. As someone who is in recovery from drugs and alcohol, I have had my fair share of these discussions with friends and family trying to clear the wreckage I left behind and trying to mend relationships.”
“Any opportunity to communicate should be taken. Left to their own imaginings, people often come to false or limited conclusions. Although I have not experienced much in terms of bias or preconceived notions but when I have, it has been due to limited understanding.
Like most people, I am trying to find my place in the world. I’ve traveled extensively and lived in ten different states. Of them all, New Hampshire holds high promise for me going forward. I hope to contribute to preserving the traditions of personal freedom that personify New Hampshire. This is also the hope of many other participants in the Free State Project and the people of New Hampshire who have welcomed us here.”
“I am a 16 year old exchange student from Karachi, Pakistan. I am living with a host family in New Boston while attending Goffstown High on full scholarship as a sophomore. Not only am I an exchange student but I am also a cultural ambassador for my country.
One of the biggest misconceptions that Americans have about Pakistan is in terms of women. We wear jeans, we hang out with friends, and we work. There is more religious freedom than you would imagine. Yes, I am Muslim. No, I do not wear a head covering. It’s a personal choice, more cultural than religious. Another big misconception is about our religion. Islam is simple and teaches us to be good human beings. There are some who have no humanity who are giving our religion a bad image and that is something I want to correct.
When I return to my homeland, it will be my responsibility to clear up misconceptions that Pakistanis have about Americans. Much of our view of this country is from movies where we see a lot of irresponsible behavior and drugs and alcohol and not caring about people’s feelings. After coming here, I realize that is not true at all.
I hope to come back to America, maybe on scholarship to a university but in the meanwhile, I hope that people can see how beautiful other people are, no matter their religion or origin.”
“Michael, a survivor of horrific child abuse, addresses issues of trauma, abuse and mental health through public speaking, writing and music. He has been a presenter on the national level on the topic of sexual exploitation and human trafficking and was part of a ground-breaking Oprah Winfrey show on males who were sexually abused as children.
Since 1993, he has travelled the country, sharing his story of hope, healing and help. His website has been visited by well over a million people and he is the founder and director of Surviving Spirit, a non-profit helping those impacted by trauma, abuse and mental health challenges through creative arts, advocacy, awareness and education.”
“I was born and raised on Manchester’s West Side until the age of 15 when we moved to Goffstown, where I graduated from high school in 1994. As a young overweight and oversized child, I endured heartbreaking bullying and physical abuse at the hands of older, stronger neighborhood kids.
Struggling to learn the art of tattooing as a young adult, I was discriminated against because of the visible tattoos on my lower arms as well as my choice of tattooing as a profession. In 2007, my life was turned upside down when my cousin, Jason Violette, was murdered in a home invasion. That event opened the doors to my gifts as a psychic medium but opened me up to further discrimination based on my beliefs in the paranormal. I now heal people through spiritual tattooing and have truly come to understand that beauty is so much deeper than the skin.”
“As a Jamaican who immigrated to this country and state over 30 years ago, I had struggled to call this place home. I had planned to move as soon as my sons were grown. Move to a place that had more Black history. Until I discovered that New Hampshire did indeed have what I was looking for and more. My story will tell how the discovery of a 300 year history of Blacks in New Hampshire changed the landscape of a town that once felt like a ‘stop through place’ to a place where I can call home a place I belonged.”
“When my parents decided to leave Croatia for the United States, I was only 3 years old. Completely unaware of the impact this move would have on my life, I had to grow up quickly. As an English-speaking child of non-English speaking parents, I took on the responsibility of translator, secretary, tax filer, and appointment maker. And though it was a challenge, I am grateful for the preservation of culture, language and family in my home.
Some may think of Croatia as a beach destination, but it is more than just beaches. It has been affected by war and unrest, something many of my American friends have not experienced. But like them, I dream of an amazing future. I hope to be the first member of my family to graduate college, open my own veterinary practice, and live the American dream!”
“When I was in high school, people would make fun of the way I looked. I was uncomfortable with who I was. I struggled with it and it hurt. But when I found out what I wanted, I decided to change it. So one day I wore a bra and nobody really said anything. And when I saw Mercedes, my drag mother, for the first time at Club 313 on stage, I was inspired. That’s when I knew what I wanted, where I would have all the power, where I am beautiful. I feel comfortable with who I am. Look at me now!”
“In the best sense of the word, The Human Library is a library of people and their experiences with prejudice. However, instead of paperback books, actual people are on loan for conversations. The concept is about acknowledging and challenging the prejudice that we all carry towards one another. For that reason, The Human Library creates a safe space for conversation where topics subject to taboo, marginalization, or stigmatization can be openly addressed without condemnation. The people acting as Books have directly or indirectly been exposed to prejudice, bias, or discrimination based on aspects of their person, heritage, or life experiences. At The Human Library, we invite in all questions and our Books engage in sharing their personal experiences with the Readers.”
The Human Library was conceived in 2000 by a Danish youth organization called Stop the Violence in response to intolerance and violence within their community. The concept quickly gained a foothold and since then, Human Libraries have been held in over 70 countries.
Please visit humanlibrary.org for more information.