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Reflections on the Human Library

Reflections on the Human Library
by Justin Hall

My experience at the human library event on May 31st was one that began with extreme intrigue as it was the first time I had been involved with such an event.  I was asked to volunteer as a "monitor" for the event which meant that I helped escort "Readers" to the "Human Books." This gave me the opportunity to view the interactions between book and reader from the outside looking in. As both readers and books began showing up for the event, it was difficult to tell one from the other as the books didn't necessarily have any discernible characteristics that made them stand out from the crowd. This only peaked my interest further. 

As readers came in and received their “library card” (a name tag), they were able to enter a separate room where the book titles were posted, along with short summaries. Each book had a unique story, and it was interesting to see the intrigue on the readers' faces as they read the summaries.

Teddy Breceda shares his story with a Reader at the Human Library. Photo by Tracie Rodriguez.

Among the many interesting books, I particularly noticed two popular human books that day. Teddy Breceda had a book title of "Forever Changes." He is transgendered and transitioned from female to male. I could tell that many readers had lots of questions for him.

Anita Grant had the catchy book title of “I’m So Glad I Didn’t Die.” She talked to people about her background growing up in Harlem, NY having lived through poverty, incest, and teen pregnancy. She's now a successful woman in her 70's and serves as a counselor and a minister.

There were readers of all ages, races, and cultures who showed up, and it was interesting to me that while many had a particular book they were interested in, most wanted the chance to meet all of the books while they were there. It was amazing to see the connections that were forming between reader and book. Teddy seemed to attract a lot of older women readers. Anita, an older woman who may have had the longest and diverse list of readers, had many young readers that were very interested in her story.

Anita Grant shares her story with a Reader at the Human Library event. Photo by Tracie Rodriguez.

With the majority of books and readers being from the Long Beach area, I felt like that really promoted a sense of understanding as the human books were instantly able to connect on several levels and break down many potential barriers right away. Not only were readers able to develop a more realistic view of those who are cloaked in stereotypes, but it seemed like the books were able to gain more understanding of how others view them, as well as overcome any ignorance by answering the many questions that readers had for them.

**To see more photos from the Human Library event, go to the page here.