The Human Library Project



The Human Library Project

Real people. Real conversations.

Details: Have you ever lost yourself in a good book? Explored new ideas or experienced far-off places through the written word?  Now is your opportunity to come face to face with a human book, ask questions and hear, first-hand, from people who have lived to tell unforgettable stories.

Despite living in one of the most diverse cities in the world, we continue to face challenges to social cohesion such as discrimination, intolerance and prejudice. With the recent release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report, growing momentum with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, as well as increasing occurrences of anti-Islamic rhetoric and actions, the 2016 Human Library is more timely than ever, primarily focusing on Indigenous, Black and Muslim perspectives.

Talk to our books about being First Nations and Métis in the city of Toronto, a Black Muslim in the post-9/11 world, or a woman of colour running for federal office. Each participant in our human library can be checked out, like a book, for 25 minutes of one-on-one time. Hear a story, share an insight and gain perspective.

Successfully staged in over 27 countries, this is the fourth time Hart House will be running this popular program, and students, staff and community members are welcome to attend.

Drop in or register on-line. Books are checked out on a first come, first serve basis.

When: Thurs., April 7, 2016, from 11 am–3 pm
Where: East Common Room, Hart House
Cost: Free / Register below through Eventbrite
Join our Facebook event for updates >>


2016 Human Books

Click through to read the full profile.



Human Book Profiles

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The Black Muslim Lady | Tendisai Cromwell

I’m a Black Muslim woman who uses film to explore the nuances of spirituality, identity, and belonging. I’m most interested in talking about the intersection of race, faith, and gender through referencing my own personal experiences, and how my spiritual path informs my worldview and work in the community. I’m also a journalist and my foray into the field began in 2009 on the streets of Palestine where I worked for a Ramallah-based publication. Since then, I have written for various publications and produced radio segments at CBC’s The Current. In 2014, I founded the production company New Narrative Films where I most recently produced a documentary exploring spirituality and social change.

Twitter: @newnarrfilms
Article: www.isnalanterns.com/2015/02/through-the-lens-of-tendisai-cromwell/
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Raised by Mohawk Chipmunks…maybe. | Jonathan Hamilton-Diabo

Depending on his mood, through the use of humour (well, he thinks he’s funny despite what his wife and children say), self-reflection or just plain making it up, Jonathan will tell his journey that begins in Kahnawake, a Mohawk community outside of Montreal, to his arrival in Toronto in the early 1990’s. He will reflect upon how he gets to do “all sorts of really neat stuff” that he never imagined doing, along with his love for coffee, superheroes and, of course, the Habs. You will hear about his family (quite large and in some case, famous…well, more like infamous…actually, they’re crazy) and how chipmunks may (or may not) have been a part of his life.
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The Tiny Brown Not-So-Skinny Humanitarian Come Politician | Tanya (Toni) De Mello

Toni was a UN Humanitarian worker in Senegal, Colombia, and Geneva where she worked with refugees, has been the Equity and Diversity Officer at U of T and in the corporate sector, and decided to recently run for Federal Office in Rob Ford land. She is a tiny brown not-so-skinny woman executive who is tired of everyone demanding she be a super woman—super skinny, super positive, be super at everything…

Twitter: @tjdemello
Video: Toni’s Tedx talk
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The Mixed Half-Breed Native | Tera Beaulieu

When I think of the social, cultural, and political landscape that many Indigenous people find themselves in today, I believe that we are in a time of change, healing and hope. As a Métis woman, I am hopeful that Canadians wish to meet Indigenous people with open minds and hearts so that we can work together to build and heal our relationships for future generations to come. I believe that a good starting place for this dialogue is to deepen and enrich people’s understanding of the diversity that exists across First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. By sharing knowledge about the history, culture and identity of the Métis, I hope to help challenge misconceptions of Métis people as simply “mixed,” “not full-blooded,” or a “catch-all” Aboriginal people. My personal story centers on healing the intergenerational trauma and disconnection that occurred within my own family as I sought to reconnect and learn about my own heritage, thus embarking on a journey of self-exploration and identity evolution as a Métis and Aboriginal woman.

Twitter: @terabeaulieu
Article: www.nationtalk.ca/story/tera-beaulieu-is-an-example-of-a-true-metis-leader
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Immigrant to Immigration Lawyer: Realizing the Canadian Dream | Karen Kwan Anderson

Karen will share her struggles, challenges, lowlights and highlights, as well as memorable moments in the journey to professional and personal fulfillment as a lawyer, wife, mother and volunteer. This work has been 20 years in the making, and the foundation started with an excellent experience at the University of Toronto, Mississauga Campus (UTM).

Article: www.thestar.com/news/immigration/2015/08/16/would-be-immigrant-from-india-awarded-3000-over-a-lost-email.html
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Lobster Biryani and Prozac | Sana A. Malik

It’s 1993 and my Pakistani immigrant family lands on Cape Breton Island ready for new opportunity. Except…it’s a post-industrial place where even the lobster fisherman are suffering. Luckily, the regional hospital recruited my Psychiatrist parents from the U.K. and tasked them with lifting the mental health state of the community. This quirky tale is a new take on the new layers of immigration, trauma, tragedy and the uncertainty of life in a new place. From building the first Islamic prayer space with an “underground” community of immigrants, to becoming a vocal community activist, learn about my story in Cape Breton and how it’s championed my course in life.

Twitter: @sanomaly
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That Angry Black One | Ellie Adekur

I’m a PhD student in Human Geography, a social justice educator, and a human rights activist in Toronto looking at issues of anti-Black racism, policing and sex workers rights. On campus I work on issues of sexual violence as a co-founder of Silence is Violence at the University of Toronto—a survivor led collective of feminist activists fighting sexual violence and rape culture on university campuses across Canada through survivor-driven support networks and legal support. I am a co-founder of the Black Liberation Collective at U of T, fighting back against issues of anti-Black racism on campus.

Twitter: @wannabeacademic
Article: www.torontoist.com/2015/09/public-consultation-on-carding-leads-to-frustration-anger/
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The Pain in the Ass | Andrew Bushey

My name is Andrew Bushey I’m a 15-year-old Metis kid from Parry Sound Ontario living with my mom, my two younger brothers, and my younger sister on the weekends. I live in Milton, Ontario at Trillium Demonstration School, a boarding school for kids with Learning Disabilities throughout the week. It’s basically a boarding school that I go to because I have a learning disability. We focus on our reading and writing abilities through a program called Empower. I like to train, go to the gym, and play basketball. Sports became a really good hiding spot for me because I was good at them and it made people overlook my struggles at school.

I’m kind of a pain in the ass to my friends, my brothers, and my mom, to anyone I can get a shot at. I have some anger issues which stem from my struggles in school and my life at home. I couldn’t find a better way to hide the way I feel about what was going on in my life so I act out often so nobody can really see what I am feeling.
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Fearless African Woman – Community Mobilizer, Scholar, Social Justice & Public Education Advocate | Chizoba Imoka

At age 14, Chizoba led a school wide strike action against her school management and the school’s catering company for the poor quality of food they served students. This strike action led to personal threats from the catering company and the eventual termination of their contract with the school. Since then, Chizoba has remained a fearless and outspoken critic of inequities wherever she sees them.

At age 19, she founded Unveiling Africa – an international non-profit organization that engages young Africans in political advocacy, community mobilizing and community service. As a doctoral student at the University of Toronto, Chizoba has served in numerous leadership roles on campus and is currently the co-chair of the Diversity Committee at Massey College. In academia, Chizoba’s research explores how a critically inclusive and African-centered education framework can be used to facilitate educational change and social transformation in Africa.

Twitter: @chizobaimoka
Article: www.news.utoronto.ca/meet-chizoba-imoka-oise-student-driven-different-vision-education/
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Running Through the 6ix with My Afro | Alpha Abebe

I’m that woman in the room with the big hair. Born in Toronto to Ethiopian parents, an average day in my life consists of metropass swipes, spicy stews, and fierce debates about race politics in the U.S. Sometimes I move between these social worlds seamlessly, and other times it takes some jumping through hoops. I wondered how other people like me navigate and design their multiple identities so I decided to trick some universities into granting me degrees as I followed my curiosities (suckers). UofT took me to York, which took me to Oxford where I am just about to wrap up a PhD. For my doctoral research I got to talk to a bunch of super interesting young people of Ethiopian descent who shared their stories about life, family, identity, philanthropy, and existential crises. When I’m not doing that, I’m working with university students through the Mosaic Institute, cheering on youth in the Ethiopian community, or taking pretty pictures.

Twitter: @alphaabebe
Article: www.tadias.com/12/29/2015/launch-of-ethiopic-studies-program-at-university-of-toronto/
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The Diplomatic Tritone | Bob Wiseman

Bob Wiseman is a film and tv composer who moonlights as a songwriter who secretly writes string quartets and makes films and videos who accompanies them live on accordion who is in the closet about playwriting who would rather stay mum about the pilot he is producing for CBC who is teaching composition at Centennial College in his spare time.
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Homeless to Harvard. Dream to Dare. Dalubuhle. | Dalubuhle Ndlovu

My name is Dalubuhle, it means the creator of beauty. I came to Canada 4 years ago. Over the past four years in Canada I lived in youth shelter for almost 2 years. I battled with mental health illness and self-acceptance. However, my experiences have moulded me into a resilient young man. I am currently in my 3rd of my undergraduate degree at York University. I am a student leader, serving in the York University Executive Committee and Presidential Search Committee. Beyond the university I am an advocate for youth, particularly socially and economically marginalized youth. I have, and continue working with community agencies and think-tanks such as The Mosaic Institute, Covenant House Toronto (Canada’s largest youth shelter), and the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture (CCVT), amongst many. I am driven by humanity, “ubuntu” the generosity and carrying of people towards one another. I would like to share my life experiences, moments, times, people who have supported me in regaining my strength. My story will cultivate a seed of “ubuntu” to at least one audience.

Twitter: @2020dalu
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Mr. Misunderstood | Devin Mark

My name is Devin Mark, I’m a 15-year-old from Brampton. I love football and have been playing for a long time, I like working out but I hate crawling out of the gym on “leg day”. I think of myself as a pretty funny kid. I live with my mom, who is a cancer survivor, and my older sister. I have a younger brother, he is 13, but he doesn’t live at home because he suffers with severe mental health issues and lives in a treatment facility. I have go to school in Milton because I have a Learning Disability and could barely read before coming to this school. You wouldn’t know this by talking to me, but I was diagnosed with a Learning Disability in grade 3 then got put in a special class. I’m a misunderstood kid in a lot of ways, a paradox, come talk to me fam.
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The (Amateur) Professional Post-Military Man Come Storyteller | David Thibodeau

A young construction worker who fell from a 6-story building and was not hurt. A troubled youth, in a small Maritime town with only two options: a uniform with some stripes, and another uniform with a different kind of stripes. David was a young soldier in the streets of Montreal during the FLQ crisis and a member of the Canadian Forces before the paranoia of cell phone cameras and calls to the press. The stories go on and on…
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Iskwew | Rosary Spence

Rosary Spence, is a Cree woman from an isolated community on the western shores of James Bay in northern Ontario. A mother, singer-songwriter, actor, designer, and First Nations educator, Rosary now resides in Toronto, ON. This is her story. Iskwew, a story of abandonment, abuse, perseverance, survival, and an unwavering desire to succeed.

Twitter: @rosaryspence
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The Human Library Project is an event designed to create dialogue, promote understanding and reduce prejudice. A collection of “human books” (widely varied in gender, age, and cultural and religious backgrounds) are offered on “loan” to visitors. Facilitated by Human Library Librarians, visitors “borrow” the human book for up to 30 minutes for an open conversation. We hope to promote tolerance and deepen the understanding of social justice, equity and diversity.


For media inquiries, please contact:
Stephanie Eldred, Senior Communications Officer: stephanie.eldred@utoronto.ca


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