The phrase "I can read you like a book" became reality at the University Writing Center's Human Library Saturday, Feb. 10 where volunteers and staff were books, available for checkout and open to sharing their personal stories one-on-one with their "readers." The readers signed up for one or more 15-minute session with a "book" to engage in open conversation and learn about others around them.
The Human Library offered readers the opportunity to engage in a conversation with a Human Book during a 15-minute conversation. A Human Book is a person who volunteered to have open and respectful conversations with readers about challenges, stereotypes or prejudices they have faced. Books at the Writing Center's event covered a variety of topics with titles such as "Validity: Bi the Way, I'm Bisexual," a story of being bisexual and coming out, and "Fragile: Sticks and Stones Will Break Bones, but Words Hurt Too," a story describing the struggles of mental illness and abuse. The "Best Sellers" pamphlet, listing all 17 Human Books, gave readers a glimpse of each book's message.
Adrian Montes, a human book with the title "Genuine: Not Skin Deep," talked about the challenges of growing up in a mixed race family and not being accepted for his own heritage. Montes is half white and half Hispanic. His dad is from Guadalajara, Mexico and his mom is from California. He recalled feeling different as early as elementary school. Some of his family believed that being mixed made him less.
"I would get pushed away because of these little differences I had from other people," Montes said. "They would say ‘you're lighter than us' or ‘your hair is cut differently than ours.' My solution was just to find other kids like me."
At the Writing Center's Human Library event, it was evident that the readers were affected by the books they engaged with. Susan, a reader at the event, said she learned "more about individual experiences and the healing that seems present when people share their narratives." Another anonymous reader said, "I'm not alone." These are just some of the powerful statements which resulted from the conversations at The Human Library.
"The atmosphere of this event was different from anything I've ever really experienced," Raelynn De La Cruz, a volunteer from the event, said. "I believe it was a great way for people to get some insight on the challenges others face and to learn more about themselves in the process!"
The Human Library Organization is a worldwide movement for social change. The movement originated in Copenhagen, Denmark. It is estimated that The Human Library has been presented in more than 70 countries around the world, most of them in partnership with local organizers. This was the first Human Library event at UNR.
"The Human Library is about learning from others," Annette Cooper, administrative assistant and event organizer for the Writing Center, said. "Everyone's story is different, and if we listen and ask questions, we can always learn something new."
Planning and organizing is already underway for the next Human Library event scheduled for September 22, 2018. For any further questions regarding the Human Library, Annette Cooper can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.