+
Inclusivity

Ever wish you could read someone’s mind? At the Human Library in Denmark, you can.

human library
Photo by Atul Vinayak on Unsplash

A library with a twist, that gives insight into the human mind in all its many forms.

A library is a place where everyone is welcome. It's a safe haven where strangers can peacefully come together, challenge their perspectives and leave having learned something new.

Twenty-one years ago, nonviolence activist and journalist Ronni Abergel decided to expand on this idea when he first created the Human Library. The nonprofit organization was designed to challenge prejudice and stereotypes by encouraging a more empathetic type of literacy.

Skip to Chapter 2021, and the Human Library is now is more than just a concept. It's a movement for change.


"I had a theory that it could work because the library is one of the few places in our community where everyone is welcome, whether you're rich or poor, homeless or living in a castle, professor or illiterate," Abergel told CNN in a recent interview. "It's truly the most inclusive institution in our time."

The concept was simple: there would still be readers and books. Only at this library, the "books" would be often stigmatized or socially unconventional people. And the "readers" would come in with specific questions, ready to listen intently to the story each "book" holds.

Sticking to library language, they even have "books of the month." The last winner was a Holocaust survivor who now spends her time traveling between the Netherlands and California.

The book titles are decidedly generic. "Transgender," "Disabled" or "Homeless." Normally this type of labeling is problematic, identifying one small aspect of a person's experience as their defining characteristic. But this is exactly what helps start a meaningful conversation and bring awareness to certain automatic judgments we all have.

With only 30 minutes allotted, conversations get very personal very fast. Conservative Christians discuss faith with Muslims. Black activists meet with Trump supporters. Anti-vaxxers talk with pro-vaxxers. Through intimate, honest and heartfelt conversation, both readers and books gain closeness, understanding that at the end of the day, beyond conflicting societal structures and different walks of life, they are each looking at a human being sitting across from them.

Katy Jon Went, one of the Human Library's coordinators in the United Kingdom, offers insight on how the Human Library helps us evolve past our own human nature:

"At the end of the day, the rest of the world sees us as something else before it sees us as humans. So even if we see ourselves as human, the world sees us first as trans, black or disabled. But if the world sees me first as those things, it is probably also how I see others. It is about recognizing the other aspects of being human: we are imperfect, we make mistakes, we do make judgements and we have unconscious biases."

In challenging perspectives through peaceful discourse, we are able to connect beyond our previous limitations. That is what makes the Human Library so powerful. And the effects are more than psychosomatic. A recent study in April indicated that the reading sessions provided a positive impact on both reader and book in a lasting way, as participants were able to vividly recall their experience months after the initial session.

We don't need a study to know that when we are emotionally affected by something—or someone—it sticks with us. When we are moved, we are changed.

Since its inception, the Human Library has done nothing but expand. There are now several locations that have popped up across the United States. When COVID-19 hit, reading sessions were available worldwide via Zoom. Corporations such as Microsoft have incorporated the Human Library into their diversity training. A new app is currently being developed where readers can search a desired book topic on their smartphone.

Interested in becoming a book? The Human Library is always looking to add to its collection. You can find out more about getting "published" at the organization's website.

In a time where hate and prejudice continue to divide us, perhaps radical change comes through the simple act of just listening.

All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

I have plenty of space.

This article originally appeared on 04.09.16


It's hard to truly describe the amazing bond between dads and their daughters.

Being a dad is an amazing job no matter the gender of the tiny humans we're raising. But there's something unique about the bond between fathers and daughters.

Most dads know what it's like to struggle with braiding hair, but we also know that bonding time provides immense value to our daughters. In fact, studies have shown that women with actively involved fathers are more confident and more successful in school and business.

Keep ReadingShow less
Identity

This blind chef wore a body cam to show how she prepares dazzling dishes.

How do blind people cook? This "Masterchef" winner leans into her senses.

Image pulled from YouTube video.

Christine Ha competes on "Masterchef."

This article originally appeared on 05.26.17


There is one question chef Christine Ha fields more than any other.

But it's got nothing to do with being a "Masterchef" champion, New York Times bestselling author, and acclaimed TV host and cooking instructor.

The question: "How do you cook while blind?"

Keep ReadingShow less

Surrendered mama dog reunited with puppies after she refused to leave the corner.

People surrender animals to Humane Societies for all kinds of reasons, but many do it because they don't feel like they can properly care for their animals anymore. It could be that they have to move to a home that doesn't allow pets or they lost a job, making caring for an animal difficult.

Two small dogs were surrendered to Marin Humane Society in Novato, California and the female had recently given birth to puppies. It's not clear if the previous owners felt like they couldn't care for both the older dogs and the puppies so they just kept the puppies, or if something else prompted the drop-off.

Either way, this mama dog was in distress after being left at the shelter without her babies. She refused to leave the corner of the large kennel and just looked so sad. The employees felt for the sweet mama dog and decided to do some detective work to see if they could figure out where the puppies were located.

Keep ReadingShow less

Gordon Ramsay at play... work.

This article originally appeared on 04.22.15


Gordon Ramsay is not exactly known for being nice.

Or patient.

Or nurturing.

On his competition show "Hell's Kitchen," he belittles cooks who can't keep up. If people come to him with their problems, he berates them. If someone is struggling to get something right in the kitchen, he curses them out.

Keep ReadingShow less

This article originally appeared on 01.27.20


From 1940 to 1945, an estimated 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz, the largest complex of Nazi concentration camps. More than four out of five of those people—at least 1.1 million people—were murdered there.

On January 27, 1945, Soviet forces liberated the final prisoners from these camps—7,000 people, most of whom were sick or dying. Those of us with a decent public education are familiar with at least a few names of Nazi extermination facilities—Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen—but these are merely a few of the thousands (yes, thousands) of concentration camps, sub camps, and ghettos spread across Europe where Jews and other targets of Hitler's regime were persecuted, tortured, and killed by the millions.

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

What I realized about feminism after my male friend was disgusted by tampons at a party.

"After all these years, my friend has probably forgotten, but I never have."

Photo by Josefin on Unsplash

It’s okay men. You don’t have to be afraid.

This article originally appeared on 08.12.16


Years ago, a friend went to a party, and something bothered him enough to rant to me about it later.

And it bothered me that he was so incensed about it, but I couldn't put my finger on why. It seemed so petty for him to be upset, and even more so for me to be annoyed with him.

Recently, something reminded me of that scenario, and it made more sense. I'll explain.

Keep ReadingShow less