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Human Library: Previous Human Books

Human Books from Past Events

2014 Human Books

Human Library




Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer's


Alzheimer's is more than someone being forgetful. It is now considered the third leading cause of death in the U.S. How do you make those hard decisions when you are faced with a loved one who has been diagnosed with this disease? When my mother passed away, I was confronted by a stranger who looked like my father, but clearly was not the man I knew. I had to make decisions regarding his safety and, when the time came, adhere to his end of life wishes.


From Nowhere to Now Here: Setting New Life Goals after Loss and Hardship


I should not be here at SU. I nearly failed high school, graduating at the very bottom of my class, and I never allowed myself to have any real goals or aspirations. Not once did I ever consider that I would be a college graduate. After a number of dead-end blue collar jobs, I felt lost. After becoming increasingly frustrated with my life and experiencing depression and anxiety, I decided to join the Army. Fifteen months into this new career, I deployed to Iraq.  During this deployment, I lost one of my best friends. I lost my religion. I came home and immediately fell into the pit of alcoholism. I have worked hard to overcome my own mental roadblocks.  I have engaged myself in my community and now work tirelessly toward new goals. My journey and my struggles are far from over but I will never stop climbing. 


From Romania to America: Lessons Learned Traveling and Living Around the World


I was born in Romania and lived there and in France from the age of 10 to 18, when I came to America. I learned, as an inspired traveler and resident of countries across the globe, that the environment in which one lives strongly influences the individual. Traveling and seeing one's culture from an outside perspective is critical to understanding and appreciating cultural differences. I will talk about my experience growing up in Europe, traveling around the world, and living in America.


Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and Onondaga Culture


There are many traditions and cultures of the indigenous people whose ancestral lands are located here, on the shores of Onondaga Lake, where this land's first democracy was forged. That history is still alive today in the people of Onondaga, the people of the hills. This is our land, and this is our story. I am a traditional member of the Onondaga Nation, Eel Clan, and the youngest son of one of the 14 chiefs at Onondaga. I am assistant director of the SU Native Student Program at the Office of Multicultural Affairs. In addition, I am head coach for the Netherlands National Lacrosse team and have co-produced films portraying Native people.


Life as a Librarian of Color


I spent most of my educational years being one of the few minorities in my classes, so my awareness of racial divides has been heightened for some time. I assumed there would be more diversity when I entered the professional world and that people who looked like me would come out of the woodwork. Unfortunately, that did not happen, and whether or not it was because of my race, it unexpectedly took two years to obtain my first librarian position. I will talk about my experiences entering the field as a woman of color and my continued journey to move up the ranks and someday provide the mentorship and advocacy that was given to me as a young librarian.


Life as a Mohawk Anthropologist


I was born a Mohawk of Akwesasne, and in 2012 I became an alum of the Maxwell School of Citizenship within the Anthropology department. I have learned to intertwine my heritage and education together and live life as a Mohawk Anthropologist. Syracuse University has changed my life for the better in numerous ways, and I am very excited to share my experiences with the SU community.


My Life as a Poet


I have spent most of my life writing poems. My discovery of haiku in grammar school spoke to my imagination in new ways and allowed me to distill language and experience through poetry. I read poetry from a wide range of poets, all of whom have affected my writing process. My pursuit of poetry led me to receive an MFA and, eventually, a PhD in literature and creative writing. I spend my time reading, writing, and teaching poems.  Although I can teach how to write in methodical ways, I hold to a notion that what makes a poem great remains a mystery. Nevertheless, I know I am in the presence of a great poem when the language, images, and sounds seem inevitable. I am always looking for a new poem to read, and conversations about poetry lead to such discoveries. I cannot imagine life without poetry and art.


My Life Journeys: From India to America, from Hardship to Success


I would like to talk about my journey as a woman of Indian origin who chose to leave her parents in order to pursue the “Great American Dream.” My life story has had all the highs and lows of a Shakespearean drama, with tragedy, hardship, and triumph, but what stands out the most are the relationships I built during these times – and the multiple turnabouts that I have had to make. A friend once said to me, “it exhausts me just to contemplate what you have gone through in life and what you have achieved, but maybe this will inspire others to stay on track with their education.” A very humbling feeling, indeed.


People, Power, and Change: Social Justice Advocacy in Communities of Faith


I have spent my career at the intersections of faith and social justice. In my many roles as pastor, scholar, and organizer, I strive to empower people of all faiths and no faith to build relationships amidst difference, craft meaningful communities and create change through collective action. For me, faith and justice are inextricably intertwined. As a Christian, and specifically as an ordained United Methodist clergywoman, I cannot have faith without seeking justice. My work has ranged from leading the movement for full inclusion for LGBT persons in the UMC, advocating for marriage equality in Massachusetts before it was legal, serving in rural Nicaragua to explore issues of neo-colonialism and economic justice, accompanying survivors of sexual abuse in and out of the Church through their recovery, and facilitating interfaith dialogues on critical issues such as Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.


Searching for Stories of My Asian-American Self


As a child, I was an avid consumer of the entertainment provided by books and media.  Yet whether I was flipping through pages or television channels, it was oftentimes challenging finding characters and stories with whom I felt I could completely relate—that is, those that similarly reflected my identity and experience as an Asian-American.  The visible lack of multicultural representation in popular media has been well-documented, yet it wasn’t until I was much older that I began to more personally realize some of the ways in which this paucity shaped, and perhaps even confused my sense of identity.  To which characters and stories did I end up clinging, and how did I (sometimes humorously!) attempt to reconcile the lack of relatable figures around me?  Though I sometimes feel I am still trying to define myself today, I have been encouraged by the greater awareness that is being drawn to embedded diversity efforts.  In addition to recounting various related anecdotes from my childhood, I will also reflect upon some of my attempts to more actively promote the importance of multicultural representation in literature, media, and, in fact, everyday life today.


Surviving and Thriving After Abuse (Staff)


Coming out of the closet as a lesbian was easier than coming out as a sexual abuse victim. After 30 years of silence, I did the bravest thing I had ever done, and confronted the worst of the abusers from my childhood. With that, I moved from victim to survivor!


Surviving and Thriving After Abuse (Student)


I'm a survivor of sexual abuse, a conqueror of depression, and a dictator of what I listen to. I spent my childhood listening to people who told me not to “tell” and that it would be ok. I listened when people told me I wouldn't make it far. I finally made up my mind that I could do better for myself, and now, I’m a pre-med Honors student with plans to become an oncologist in the future.


The Indian Way of Life


India has a very unique culture and many traditions that are not well-known in the western world. I will talk about  traditional life, marriage, food, dress, and other topics. Bring your questions about life in India, and I will be happy to answer them.


Their Expectations versus My Own: Learning to Create Myself


I have spent my life on the borders of high self-expectations and other’s low expectations. As a young Latina from Lower East Side Manhattan, I grew up in an urban jungle where socioeconomic status, neighborhood, and perceived family upbringing were the predators. Dreaming big was encouraged but seeing those dreams to fruition was unheard of. When I went to college, I discovered that college is not where you “find” yourself but where you “create” yourself. Having used college as a means of escape, I thought college would be welcoming, inspiring and invaluable. As a first generation student of color at a predominately white institution, my collegiate experience was very difficult, with racism, misogyny, hate speech, and violence as my classmates. College combined with tragic childhood experiences of sexual and emotional abuse forced me to view my dream as a nightmare. My self-expectations for a successful career and loving family began to diminish. Others expectations of me, which were exceedingly low, encompassed my first year experience. However, with great friendship, disguised blessings and the development of tough skin, I not only survived; I thrived.


When Your Heart Speaks: Embracing Uncertainty and Discovering Adventure and Purpose

  Listening to the whispers of your heart and then letting them guide your life experience creates a path that many humans reject: a path of uncertainty. Yet, for me, it is precisely this uncertainty that has given me a deeply meaningful journey thus far, and one that is filled with great adventure and purpose. Since awakening to my true self in college … you know, the truth of you that resides in your heart, often kept protected from the world …  through the painful yet powerful process of recovering from a nearly fatal eating disorder, I've been blessed to reconstruct a new rule book for life. This rule book has guided me for the past 15 years, and is governed by joy, passion, adventure, creativity, expression, compassion, and spirit. It brought me to the coasts of our country, to the mountains and deserts, to the big cities, to the beautiful islands of Hawaii, to the far-off shores of Africa and India, and to the industries of tourism, farming, corporate America, and non-profit America in the area of education, arts, and human services. It has freed me from the societal pressures to conform, to conflict, and to contract. It has freed me to live at peace in my body, regardless of shape and size, and to be courageous enough to love life and the experience of it more than the fear of not being or having or doing enough.


2015 Human Library Books

Human Library



A Foreigner’s Perspective on Mis/representation of Autism in American Culture


The way autism is perceived by people without autism has a long history of misunderstanding in the United States. One prevailing myth about autism is that it is synonymous with intellectual disability. At the same time, as a non-native English speaker who comes from a non-western country, I have noticed that lacking the capacity to use a certain degree of English can often cause non-native English speakers to be misunderstood and mistreated by native English-speaking people. By weaving in my narrative as a non-native English speaker, I will talk about how being outside of the cultural norm positions me to look critically at dis/ability norms.


Choosing to Stay Positive


I have experienced an enormous amount of life’s ups and downs and still manage to stay positive and embrace people and life! I will share the strategies I’ve used to help me stay positive even during the difficult times, such as journaling, creating art with inspirational messages, relying on friends and coworkers, and prayer. I believe that being positive in life is a choice. I grew up in a little village in the Syracuse area, attended community college, got married and had children at a young age, remarried, and worked in several settings including the financial world, a non-profit organization, and finally in academia.


Expecting More From Libraries


I am a professor of library and information science at the School of Information Studies and speaker on issues of librarianship internationally. Over the years of working with academic, school, and public libraries, I have come to see how much they can offer to their communities. I'd love to talk about how to re-energize libraries with maker spaces and events like these (human libraries) and why expecting more from your library is important.


Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) and Onondaga Culture


There are many traditions and cultures of the indigenous people whose ancestral lands are located here, on the shores of Onondaga Lake, where this land’s first democracy was forged. That history is still alive today in the people of Onondaga, the people of the hills. This is our land, and this is our story. I am a traditional member of the Onondaga Nation, Eel Clan, and the youngest son of one of the 14 chiefs at Onondaga. I am also the assistant director of the SU Native Student Program at the Office of Multicultural Affairs. In addition, I am the head coach for the Netherlands National Lacrosse team and have produced films and documentaries and published a book portraying and highlighting the Native perspective.


How Inherent Inequality in Silicon Valley Leads to Innovation


Silicon Valley, just south of San Francisco, is the birthplace of computer innovation. Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Apple, Oracle, and more have their company headquarters in the Valley. It is a zone of potential, creativity, and innovation. And yet, there is an incredible dissonance between the opportunities afforded to the upper and lower classes. This dissonance is well known, and growing up in Silicon Valley, I’ve experienced and participated in numerous social experiments in an attempt to close that gap. These experiences have led me to pursue sociology as a career and life passion.


Indian Culture  

In India you can find unity in diversity. Each state has its own unique culture, and traveling from one state to another is like traveling to a new country! While the western world is slowly opening up to Indian culture, there are still aspects about it and myths that can sometimes make it difficult to fully understand its many nuances. I will talk about my experience coming from India, and answer any questions about its unique culture, misconceptions, and diversities.


My Road to the CEO: Lessons Learned Leading an Academic Library  

Academic research libraries are evolving because of new ways of teaching, scholarship, and research. By definition they must respect and provide access to the past while also preparing for the future. In this volume the chief executive officer of the Syracuse Universities Libraries talks about the evolution of the 21st century academic research library and how it fits into Syracuse University’s future.


Overcoming Bullying  

I grew up in the small town of Memphis, Michigan, where being gay was not accepted. I experienced the worst times of my life there, which made me a stronger individual. I went to a top culinary arts school for my undergrad, worked in some of the best hotels in southern California, and am now getting my master’s through the Whitman School! I'm a strong and proud individual and am grateful for the learning experiences I had growing up in Memphis.


Reverse Revelation and the Loss of Faith  

I am an earth scientist who, at age 21, experienced a “reverse revelation” in east Africa when I participated in an expedition searching for our ancient ancestors. Now over 40 years later, this moment still surprises me, given I was brought up as an orthodox Jew. Yet despite considerable searching to find a way to return to some degree of belief or faith, I continually find myself attracted to decisions based on objective, reproducible information rather than desires, or projections by others of things I cannot prove. I find belief-based decision-making in the body politic troubling with respect to most major decisions, be they environmental or political.   


Roses are Red...?: Using Poetry for Personal Growth and Social Change  

As a youth, I used expressive language to commemorate special events and to convey the depths of my developing emotions. In my early adulthood, I began using spoken-word platforms to promote justice and challenge status-quo hegemony, and since 2007, I have amassed several poetry “slam” awards. Through “Say Yes to Education,” I have taught creative-writing in the Syracuse City School District, and I am the recipient of the first-annual "Syracuse Poetry Awards" prizes for "Performance Poem of the Year" and "Teaching Artist of the Year.” I encourage all students to utilize poetry and art as mechanisms to overcome fear and adversity, and as tools to advocate for social change.


Self-Love: When the World Tells You You’re Not Good Enough  

As a first generation student of color at a predominately white institution, my collegiate experience was very difficult; with racism, misogyny, hate speech, and violence as my classmates, my self-esteem was very low. College, combined with tragic childhood experiences of sexual and emotional abuse, persuaded me to dislike myself, and at times hate who I was. My expectations and aspirations for a successful career and loving family diminished daily. However, with great friendship, disguised blessings, and the development of tough skin, I not only survived; I thrived and began my journey of self-love.


Student Veterans  

I am a combat veteran who served in South Korea and Italy. I deployed to Afghanistan with 173d Airborne Brigade. I am pursuing a degree in Information Management and Technology with a minor in Entrepreneurship. I want to speak about any stigmas or questions people have about war and veterans in general and discuss my personal story from prior service to today. I also would like to address the importance of the student veteran within the classroom: how integrating with traditional students can be valuable to our transition and how our inclusion within Syracuse University and can add value to their experiences as well. 


Suicide and Mental Health  

I very unexpectedly lost a younger sister to suicide three years ago. Keeping both my own and my immediate family’s lives together was one of the most incredibly difficult things I have ever experienced. Since then I have worked to be very conscious of mental health issues, including my own depression/anxiety. I volunteer with To Write Love on Her Arms, blog heavily during National Suicide Prevention Week, and try to be as vocal as possible in regards to support systems that exist, my own adventures with admitting I had problems of my own to work through, and the process of dealing with them day to day.


Surviving and Thriving After Abuse  

Coming out of the closet as a lesbian was easier than coming out as a sexual abuse victim. After 30 years of silence, I did the bravest thing I had ever done, and confronted the worst of the abusers from my childhood. With that, I moved from victim to survivor!


Third Culture Kid  

The term “Third Culture Kid” refers to children who have been raised outside of their parents’ home country and/or culture for a significant part of their developmental years. Before coming to Syracuse, I grew up in four different countries on three different continents (Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, and U.S.). I have also been fortunate to have traveled to several countries in North America, Europe, Asia, and Oceania. These cultural experiences have ultimately shaped who I am today, and who I intend to be in the future.


What Ever Happened to the Egyptians?   The Arab Spring, pyramids, camels, mummies, hieroglyphics…. Ever wonder what Egypt is like, minus all the stereotypes? Have an interest in Egyptian politics, culture, or religion? Was the Egyptian Revolution like it was on TV? Bring your questions, and I will be happy to answer them. (And yes, I walk like an Egyptian: one foot in front of the other.)

Human Books 2016

Human Library





The Builder's Shoes: A Life of Legacy


Ever since childhood, my parents have had certain dreams and aspirations for my life: everything ranging from my name to my career. But as they watched my life unfold, they observed a path that was beyond their hopes and dreams. Doors unexpectedly opened and closed, avenues took many turns, and directions constantly changed. Join me in my quest in realizing the bricks that built my life - the bricks that merged what was my everyday life with the pathway that had been set before me, built by one greater than I. Listen to the story of how my life led me into the field of architecture, allowing me to learn much more about building and what it takes to be a true “builder.” Learn how I hope to continue the legacy passed down to me from generation to generation.



Drowning in Place: Learning to Manage Anxiety, Depression and Panic


I will discuss my struggle balancing mental health and college, as well as how I managed to get to a stable and functional place after a mental health medical leave of absence. I can talk about my inpatient experience, how it feels to be back at SU, and more.



Embracing Unpredictability: How a Semester Abroad Changed My Life


I will talk about the unpredictability of life and being open to change. In college my plan was to complete my BA in Political Science and get a job in Public Administration or with an NGO in Washington D.C. A semester of study abroad in Florence, Italy changed everything. Since then, my life has taken many different turns, and I've found that being flexible and open to new possibilities results in exciting and unpredictable discoveries of untapped capabilities and interests.



Experiences of a Student from Kazakhstan


Ever heard of Kazakhstan? I hope your first association is not the film "Borat." I come from a place with a long history and ancient traditions. It is the country on the crossroads between Europe and Asia. Currently, representatives of 130 ethnicities live in Kazakhstan and I am proud to come from a multicultural country like mine. I speak Kazakh on a par with Russian, which makes me bilingual. In addition to that, I am a librarian. I love my work and I see the positive impact that the libraries have on people. I want libraries in Central Asia transform and prosper, which is why I applied for grad school in the US. Being an international student is challenging, especially when there are not many other international students in the program. I would like to tell you about my home country and what I am learning through my experiences in Syracuse.



From an American Indian Reservation to Syracuse University


I am a non-traditional film student who grew up on an Indian reservation that is located about 30 miles south of Buffalo, NY. Native American students make up about 0.6% of the Syracuse student population, and I am a Haudenosaunee Promise Scholar within the Native Student Program. This is your opportunity to ask me anything pertaining to my Indian identity or culture.



From Beijing, China to Syracuse: Life Is a Box of Chocolates


Can you imagine that someone who hated computer in high school could receive her bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the best engineering school in China? Can you imagine that someone who didn’t think of working in academia when she was in her Ph.D. program could be a professor at Syracuse University after working at a few industrial companies? I will share how my life’s journeys led me from China to the United States to pursue my studies and explore my interests and what I learned along the way.



Last year I published my first book entitled Generation-i: The Millennial Mindset, which tackles common misconceptions related to teenagers and young adults who were born during the information age. I will share my thoughts on how this boom of technology has affected my generation, as well as my experiences as a 21-year old author. I am a senior majoring in Information Management and Technology. I am the current technology chair of the Student Association, I work on Syracuse University's official social media team (#44Social), and I previously served as the technology columnist for the Daily Orange.


Journey into Power Yoga

I’m an instructor of Baptiste yoga, an athletic, dynamic style of power yoga that is deeply physical. In Baptiste Yoga, we talk about physicality, or the first entry being through the body. We live in such a fast-paced, stressed-out world, and live in our heads so much that we often feel disconnected from our bodies. Baptiste yoga demands your full presence and puts you deeply in your body. And when you are in your body in the present moment, you can tap into your deep reservoirs of personal power. I will share the reasons I love Baptiste yoga and will teach you some yoga moves as well.


Life in the In-Between

As a biracial trans individual, I live most of my life in the “in-betweens” - not exactly one thing, but not quite the other either. Intentionally leaving a conservative, Southern home at 18 with no intention of returning, I’ve spent the past ten years learning not to let other people’s discomfort with who I am make me uncomfortable with myself, a process that has been full of ups and downs. I’ll discuss what got me to where I am today and how that all feeds into the social justice work that I do here on campus as associate director of the LGBT Resource Center.


Living an International Life in the U.S.

Growing up with a deeply rooted Ukrainian sense of identity in Syracuse, New York, I felt myself living a global existence all my life. I developed an international professional identity through my work at the Slutzker Center for International Services at Syracuse University, and in my engagement in NAFSA: Association of International Educators. You CAN be globally engaged, even living in CNY!


The Long Dance

I have always referred to my life as a dancer and movement artist/educator as an “odyssey.” I have followed where it led me, have learned to love tenaciously, and continue to practice “articulate abandon.” Over the past 20 years, I have honed my skills as a teacher and now invest passionately in the mentoring of stunning/self-aware dancers. This lovely Rumi quote says it nicely: “Dance, when you're broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.” I hold an MFA degree in Dance, a Ph. D. in Kinesiology, and am a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique.


Meditation: Its Impact on my Life and Mini Demonstration

I am a meditator and Holy Fire Reiki Master Teacher by desire and the Assistant Director of the TEDCenter at University College by profession. I was previously a registered nurse, and through the course of life's challenges and the blessing of a son who is now 22, I have experienced many life changing events that have led me to where I am now. I will share how anyone can meditate - anywhere, anytime, with as little as 30 seconds. I will also share the impact and positive effects meditation has had on my life.


Science and Music: Walking Down the “Road not Taken" 

I’m a Meredith Teaching Chair and Chairman of Earth Sciences, who rediscovered my joy of music six years ago and subsequently transformed myself into a journeyman solo jazz guitarist.  I’ll share the story of how I traveled down my “road not taken" to achieve new joy and meaning in my life. At the end of our conversation, I will compose an impromptu one-minute musical portrait of the reader, or alternatively, play a short song from the Classic American Songbook of Jazz Standards. 


Student Veteran

I serve in the Marine Corps as a telephone systems/personal computer intermediate repairman in the 6th Communications Battalion. While serving in 29 Palms, CA, I became an instructor assistant in my military occupational specialty and took charge of 30 marines. Currently, I am pursuing a bachelor's degree in marketing management, and help to promote and advertise the Student Veterans Organization as its public affairs officer.



Telling the Untold Story


For several years, I was the post-production supervisor for the PBS current affairs documentary series, Frontline. During this time, the series gained renewed recognition for its quick and comprehensive response to the events leading up to, during, and after 9/11. I will discuss my personal experience engaged in the various stages of production, including how I helped craft Frontline’s collected materials and interviews into a compelling form of storytelling, addressing both the ambitious goals of the show's producers and the rigorous expectations of public television.


Why Knot Knit?

I grew up in a family that, like most farm families, embodied the concept of being “competent with [one’s] own hands” (an idea introduced to me by the book How to Live on Nothing by Joan Ransom Shortney). Most of the women were proficient at multiple needlework skills. As a child, my grandmother taught me simple crochet, my aunt taught me knitting in my teens, and my great aunts produced lovely hand-made gifts. Surrounded by these experienced crafters as a young woman, it proved surprisingly easy to bond over a variety of beautiful handmade goods. The skills connected me not only to the women in my own family, but also to the older women in the community who plied the craft. Along with the techniques, I learned the artistic possibilities and the ethos of a craft well done, and experienced the expression of love, support, and community made possible through the sharing of one’s own handiwork. Through years of practice, the craft has also connected me to the countless needle-women through history. I can share my experiences and teach the basics of knitting and crochet.


The Yoruba People of Nigeria

I came to Syracuse from Nigeria, where I am part of the Yoruba nation, a major Nigerian ethnic group whose spread goes as far as Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago. Currently, I am a Humphrey Fellow at the Maxwell School. I will share the rich culture of the Yorubas, including their historical values, communal society, and my own personal experiences within the Yoruba nation.


You Can Judge a Book by its Cover

I will discuss traditional hand-bookbinding and its history during the past century. This can also include discussions of the future of the book in the digital age. This book comes with illustrations: examples of bindings, tools, and materials. After being introduced to the field as a work-study student in college, I moved to Germany where I trained as a bookbinder and conservator following a very rigid guild-based apprenticeship model. After my return, I worked as a bookbinder and conservator in private practices and at research libraries in the U.S., also establishing the conservation lab at Syracuse. I have exhibited my bindings widely, written tutorials and related materials based on the German techniques I learned and practiced, and am currently working on a history and bibliography of W. Collin the last court bookbinders in Berlin, and the writings of Ernst Collin.