The Ticket: Go check out a book from the Human Library

Forget your paperback or iPad this weekend and pick up a living, breathing, speaking human book

February 4, 2016

By Eliot Escalona / Photo: Liesbeth Bernaerts

“The Human Library is exactly what is sounds like: you pick a title that interests you and you check out a book, except our books are real people with real spines,” says Dave Deveau, curator of the Human Library that is part of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. For this event to be possible, people volunteer to be human books and tell stories based on aspects of their life. They also help the “reader” gain a deeper understanding of their stories by answering questions and interacting with them.

The project, which in Vancouver is put on by the Zee Zee Theatre Company and the Vancouver Public Library, has been part of the PuSh festival for four years. It’s following in the footsteps of the first Human Library that began in Copehagen in 2000 by a collective called Stop the Violence. Dave Deveau says this project “challenges the stereotypes and stigmas that we create in our minds. A person can only choose a book by the title, and often times the human book is nothing like the person had imagined.” Human libraries aim to bring down the barriers between people who, on the surface, appear to have nothing in common and through stories demonstrate how all of our lives are relatable. With only a 20-minute time slot for the human book to share their story, Deveau and his team of books have worked hard to make the stories concise, thought-provoking, and emotionally charged.

“In a city where loneliness is a daily struggle for some, a Human Library brings our ‘readers’ closer to humanity and removes the difference and ‘othering’ between us,” Deveau says. After running for four years, there are people who have attended the Human Library as readers and have come back the next year to lend out their humanity by sharing their story. For those of you who read this and take out a human book, maybe the city will be hearing your story next year. This weekend, the human books will be available for check out on Saturday and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Central Public Library, for the beautiful price of your attention and listening skills. You can find a list of all of the titles at this year’s Human Library here.

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