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The Human Library Movement: Where People Are The Books To 'Read'

The events, which are meant to help start tough conversations, are popping up around the world.
Posted at 10:06 AM, Jun 10, 2017

You can learn a lot from books checked out at your local library. But this library's books aren't on paper. Instead, you can "check out" humans.

"There's this taboo about asking about anything that makes someone different. … At an event like this, it's OK to ask questions. It's OK to be curious and have conversations about these things. And the more you know, the less there is to be afraid of," Amy, a "book" with synesthesia, said. 

This event in Chicago mirrors a global movement. Human libraries have gained popularity over the years after starting in Denmark in 2000. 

The process is pretty simple. Human books have "titles" that participants can choose from. Then they're welcome to ask questions. 

"I had a feeling or a hunch that this was something I could do to remind people I'm still human," said Jamie, a minister who is transgender.

Sean, an independent pro wrestler, said: "People are surprised to find out that I'm an educator, that I'm a veteran. So when [they] look at the title but don't understand that those other things make me who I am, they find out more about me besides just the pro wrestling part. And I love that. I love to just strip myself down, per se, and put myself out there because if I'm not honest, then there's really no point in doing an event like this."

The event also offers time for the human books to interact and learn from one another.

"My book isn't the average book," Sean said. "I want my story to be told. But I also like the conversation with the other books, just sitting around and hearing their different stories and hearing them relate to other people. Because sometimes I think we are just as much affected as the reader."

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