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Chris Payne human book

Human Books: people sharing one-on-one

Have you met any good books lately? If not, you might discover the story to move or challenge you—that could change your point of view or even your life—when the Human Library returns to Wilton on March 23.

The Human Library is the simple but powerful social movement with beginnings in Denmark in 2000. Everybody has a story, they say, as real people with real stories volunteer to become “human books” and share what is in their hearts. Of course, you don’t take them home. But for a few minutes, you as the reader and the book you select get to really talk, face to face, heart to heart.

“How are we to understand each other, if we do not have the opportunity to talk to each other?” asks Human Library founder Ronni Abergel. At hundreds of venues in over 70 countries people who might at first seem very different from each other have been doing exactly that. People “borrow” their neighbors to talk about the hard stuff and what really matters, to learn from one another and overcome the walls that divide us through compassion and understanding.

“In my seventeen years at our library this is one of the best things I’ve ever been involved with,” says Wilton librarian, Susan Lauricella. Last Spring, she and her colleague, Melissa Baker, brought together 22 human books recruited from right here in our town and over 200 readers as Wilton became the first non-academic library in Connecticut to host this event.

“They teach and uplift us,” Lauricella says, “and I gained great insight into their stories, their struggles … what they deal with every day.”
Every good book deserves a sequel, and you’ll have the chance to read more of the many books who are returning as well as the opportunity to browse the new titles. Their dust jackets are at the library’s website; each worthy of its own award.

Overcoming Adversity is Chris Payne’s book title. Now a confident young man with a warm smile, he “came to Wilton in 2004 as a 14-year-old kid from the south side of Chicago.” An ABC high school scholar, he was a stranger and “one of the few black students,” here in Wilton. His theme is hope, and how through hardship we become stronger.

You can chat with practicing Pagan, Mary Kimball Wiger, who has been following “the old ways” and a different spiritual path for over 23 years. Many people think of curses and devil worship, but she wants you to know what Paganism is really about. She promises not to cast a spell on you.

In the book of Lori Boersma’s life, a miracle occurred. She was facing the diagnosis of cancer for the second time, and suffering complete kidney failure and other severe complications. Her doctors put her into a medically induced coma and her prognosis was dire. But after 54 days, she awoke.

Katarina Wajda will be on loan to tell you of her hard path through depression to healing and happiness; Jennifer Iannazzi to share the challenges and joys of special needs parenting; Oriana Laflamme to speak with you of her recovery from anorexia “one bite at a time.” These books are the hometown heroes we may see everyday but have never truly known.

“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms,” wrote poet, Muriel Rukeyser; and here will be their stories—stories of adversity and tears, stories of struggle, survival, and triumph to show us once again the meanings of grace, perseverance, and true courage.

But will there be humor, laughter, joy? Although the subjects are serious, Baker suggests these human books are joy bringers who’ve transumted sorrow into meaning and are teaching us how to be.

“I am because we are,” is the African proverb of ubuntu calling us to recognize the humanity in every person. And in our own community of memoir, the Human Books Next Door wish to teach us ubuntu, to bravely tell their stories—and be heard.


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