The Human Library at UUCPA, May 5

You may have read about this international phenomenon, created in Denmark in 2000: a library full of human “books,” each of whom is prepared to speak from their own experience as a person with a frequently-misunderstood ethnicity, mental health condition, disability, social status, occupation, religion, or other such “pillar of prejudice.” The “readers” choose their book and join them for a dialogue in which the reader can ask questions that are usually taboo and learn enough to, in the words of the Human Library, “unjudge someone.”

The founder and leader, Ronni Abergel, says: “The idea is fairly simple. We arrange for people to meet and talk in a safe and secure environment. That has proven to be a useful and effective method for allowing people to get to know about each other through conversation.”

I had heard of the Human Library and dreamed of participating. Then a mutual friend introduced me to Leslie Schipa, the Bay Area’s new Depot Manager: the person who organizes Human Library events in our area. Leslie and our mutual friend are also UUs, and as soon as I learned what Leslie does for a living, I asked two questions: “Can I be a book? And can we host the Human Library at UUCPA?”

A few months later, during my sabbatical, I participated in my first Human Library event as a book, and I repeated the experience in January. The resulting conversations with readers who wanted to know more about, in my case, what it was like to be pansexual, an atheist, or a person with anxiety, were profound. Other titles on the shelves during these events were “narcissist,” “girl in a wheelchair,” “psychic,” “Muslim,” “person with a chronic illness,” “autistic person,” “police officer,” “father of an addict”: all people willing to answer questions about these identities that others have, but usually don’t dare to ask.

As for the second half of my dream, Rev. Cat was as excited about hosting as I was, and so we put it on the calendar as soon as we could. So on Sunday, May 5, you too can borrow a human book (or several!) right here at UUCPA. Please spread the word–bring a friend–and “unjudge someone”!