Skip to main content

Human Library

This guide provides information, book descriptions, and resources about PPLD's Human Library.

2018 PPLD Human Library Catalog

Titles for our 2018 Human Library Program are listed below. Resources and information about each title are included and some are favorites suggested by the "human books." 

We are also including some "best sellers" for limited circulation from our 2017 program.

Click on a tab to read the description.

Black. White. Other. I remember obsessing over which box to check. Invariably, I chose “Other.”


Today, I have more boxes to choose from, so I generally check “African-American” or “Biracial,” since the category that best describes my cultural identity—Afro-German—is not an option.

Psychiatrists tell us that in order to live an “authentic” life, we must be able to answer two significant questions: “Who am I?” and “Where do I belong?” But as the product of two cultures—German and African-American—I struggled with these questions for much of my life. Choosing one meant rejecting the other. It never occurred to me that I could choose both.

I am a post-World War II “occupation baby” born in Nurnberg (Nuremburg), Germany, site of the infamous Nuremberg Trials, where 23 Nazi war criminals were prosecuted for atrocities against Jews and other Mischlinge.* I came to the United States with my parents and, at age seven, entered the second grade at Lincoln Elementary, where I faced two formidable challenges: learning English and becoming “American”.

My parents, too, are criminals for creating a Mischling like me. In Germany, my mother is guilty of Rassenschande: diluting “superior” Aryan blood with “inferior” non-Aryan blood, a crime perceived as high treason, punishable by imprisonment or death. In the United States, my parents’ interracial marriage makes them guilty of miscegenation, a felony punishable by “not less than one, nor more than five years” imprisonment. As I recall this part of my story, I realize that my crippling inferiority complex could not be attributed merely to my perpetual identity crisis; it was deeply rooted in feelings of guilt, shame, and fear.

To fight these feelings, I became fiercely competitive, continually collecting certificates, awards, and academic degrees to prove my self-worth. Fortunately, I finally realized that no amount of external validation would ever be enough until I began to value myself.

As I started to shift my perspective, I saw my parents through new eyes: as two strong, courageous people who defied convention and lived reasonably happy, authentic lives while raising five “brown babies” in a hostile, pre-Civil Rights society. My transformation continued as I began to research my roots and seek out more relevant role models than that of the “tragic mulatto” portrayed in films like Imitation of Life. So when I first saw Afro-German actor Boris Kodjoe on the Showtime series Soul Food, I wanted to stand up and cheer!

Given my history, it should come as no surprise that I support bilingual education, multiculturalism, and culturally responsive teaching. I do believe that, in general, our actions shape our lives. But I am also convinced that (as Saleem Sinai wryly observes in Midnight’s Children), “Most of what matters in our lives takes place in our absence.”

*Although originally used to designate the offspring of German mothers and African fathers who served as French colonial troops that occupied the Rhineland after World War I, the term “Mischling” was later applied to any person of mixed-race (Aryan and non-Aryan) heritage.
 
Further Reading.

Born into a cycle of abuse, I was a very desperate girl at 13 and latched onto an older boy who wanted to take care of me. By the time I was 14, I was pregnant, then married, and then became a mom. It was a big year. The next several years would bring two more children and a life of physical, emotional, sexual, and mental abuse. My husband controlled me, dominated me, and in the end, when I tried to leave, he attempted to kill me. Ultimately, he died instead, and I was left widowed at 22 with three small children and a lot of unresolved pain. More than anything else, people want to know why I stayed in an abusive marriage for eight years. I love this question because I can be a real face to a dark issue.

 

 Further Reading.

I am a 25 year old female who was diagnosed with dyslexia at 19. I went through grade school, high school and one year of college all not knowing I had it and not getting the proper accommodations. The person with me is my boyfriend of over one year and he does not have dyslexia. Together we tell a story of heartbreak, love, overcoming obstacles, and victory.

Further Reading.

Born an Air Force brat, Kelly grew up on both coasts and everywhere in between. She studied at the University of Colorado at Boulder and California State University Stanislaus, earning a master’s in Ecology and Sustainability. Her career has taken her on the open ocean to handle live sharks and up in helicopters to count Big Horn Sheep outside Area 51. Adventure is all in a day’s work, but it’s not without setbacks. In addition to balancing her career while living with chronic disease, Kelly must face opposing viewpoints on environmentalism. Is endangered species protection really necessary? Why should we bother counting weeds on the Air Force Academy? Kelly endeavors to share her enthusiasm for natural resources through personal experience, listening, and understanding.

Kelly is a part-time novelist and enjoys hiking, biking, table-top games, and knitting far too many scarves. She has also dabbled in zoo-keeping, teaching, and working on film crews. She calls Colorado Springs home.

 

Further Reading.

The affirm clash of the Western culture and African culture creates the best of both worlds immersed in a beautiful chaos of misunderstanding, compromise and conformance. And I'm in the middle of all of its glory to help bridge the gap between both worlds and how to create an cohesive cohabitation. The invisible gap that consist of morality, culture, religion,racism, identity issues, and expectations in both worlds. My goal is to answer any questions and share my personal experiences of being a first generation and to educate on the importance each culture difference contributes.

I never would have imagined.ME? HOMELESS?

               Yes, as a matter of fact, I was homeless FOUR times in my adult life.

I didn’t wake up thinking, TODAY, I will go be homeless. Circumstance dictated each event.

               HOMELESS, it was not where I wanted to be.

 
"I Won't Go Away"

I won’t go away

There is nowhere to be

I park my cart in the doorway

 

My bed is the sidewalk

That box my mattress

My head don’t feel the cold

When I lay it on the cement

Your eyes don’t see

I am there only to me

 

I won’t go away

There is nowhere to be

 

My life is carried in this broken-down cart 

     Once I SAVED a man

     Once I PILOTED a plane

     Once……….I had somewhere to be

      Once I stood tall and SALUTED my men at morning revile

      Once

 

I Won't Go Away

I won’t go away

I park my cart in the doorway

There is nowhere to be

© Joyce Mullen February 28 2015

 Further Reading.

Everyone has aspects of themselves they keep from public view, or perhaps only share with those most trusted. Controlling the distribution of this information has obvious advantages, but we might not so readily see the disadvantages. I'd like you to take some time to consider how your life would be shaped if there were parts of you that influenced your job, family, sense of self, even whether or not you'll leave your bed in the morning. If you had little to no control over how far this information reached or how people interpreted what they perceived. This is the general struggle of those living with a chronic illness. The magnitude of devastation a person with a chronic illness can experience is hard to quantify because there is so much more to manage beyond the illness itself. Further, if the physical symptoms of the illness do not manifest in an obvious way, a new disease is acquired... social backlash. I'd like to share with you my journey with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE).

 

Further Reading.

 “You don’t celebrate Christmas?” and “Santa Claus doesn’t come to your house?” Those are questions that I remember other kids asking me when I was in elementary school. There were only a few other Jewish kids in my school so I was in the minority. That’s the reality for Jews in America today. It’s estimated that there are approximately 14 million Jews in the world, approximately 6 million of whom live in Israel, with the rest spread around everywhere else. I’ve lived in Colorado Springs for almost twenty years and am an active member of our local Jewish community, which has two synagogues and several Jewish organizations. We’re the only Jewish family in our neighborhood and our kids were often the only Jewish kids in their grade in public school. We are glad to live in a city with strong religious traditions and organizations even though that presents challenges sometimes. For me, Judaism is more than a religion, it’s my culture, my identity, and reflects the values that I try to live by every day."

 Further Reading.

Spread peace, feed the crowd, and pray to your lord while everyone's asleep.  No wealth is reduced by charity.  The best charity is food that you offer your wife with your own hand.  Muhammad bin AbdulLah, the seal of the prophets - peace be upon them.

The more I learn about him, the better I understand Islam.

I was born a Muslim to a Palestinian couple who migrated to Egypt then Kuwait from their home land in Gaza, Palestine.  I became a practicing Muslim after my second son was born nearly thirty years later.  This drastic change in my life was overdue by more than a decade.  I realized that this innocent newborn was also going to look up to me, seek my affection and find comfort in being close to me the same way his 22 month old brother demanded this attention with tears in his eyes impatiently while I was preparing his meal.  Fatherhood taught me patience, generosity, responsibility and faith in that everything will turn out fine.  Just have to do my part and keep the faith.  Life went on and I met many families from different backgrounds and faith denomination while raising those two boys.  I taught children Arabic and daily prayers on weekends, and played with technology during my daycare hours.  Then suddenly the house was quiet, the boys were in college and the day to meet my creator is getting nearer.  I still felt that there is more for me to do on this earth.  My dear fellow Muslims were not all model Muslims. I started to think maybe I am not such a perfect model practicing Muslim either.  Where are the real Muslims?  Saudi Arabia?  Egypt?  America?  I welcome the opportunity for you to sit down with me and talk about the real Muslims around us.

Further Reading.

 I was born in 1947 deformed with multiple physical abnormalities such as improperly formed joints and the lack of certain muscles.  I have normal cognitive abilities.  Because of the time and place of my birth US society determined early-on that there was not a place for me in the normal social and employment world.  As a result, that same US society subsidized my existence through programs such as Social Security Disability Insurance for my entire adult life.  And as a result of that, I have had my entire life available to me to do with as I saw fit.  I am grateful for that opportunity.  I have spent my time learning, and as a leader in political and social justice activism (eventually served in an elective office.)  I became a lifelong autodidact (self-learning, self-taught).  My life begs the question: So what exactly is meant by “disabled” (crippled, handicapped, other-enabled, etc.)?

Further Reading.

Everyone has a COP story. It usually begins with “This one time, I got pulled over…” or today more frequently, it sounds like “Did you see that one COP video…” This book begins all his COP stories with “There I was…”  In this day and age of instant videos and biased media are COPs heroes or villains…or maybe something in between. This 20-year police veteran spent most of his career in uniform answering 911 calls in our neighborhoods, but has also worked for many years as a School Resource Officer with our kids and for a time as a helicopter pilot. Feel free to ask this COP questions you always wanted to but never had the opportunity…the answers might even surprise you.  

Further Reading.

I think our struggles are a powerful tool for connection if we talk about them. Some of mine have happened in the realm of my inner thoughts and feelings. I live with bipolar disorder and post-traumatic disorder. I experience psychosis sometimes when I am going through a manic episode. Psychosis is a frightening and lonely experience. Imagine losing total control over your mind, not knowing what is real and what isn't real. I experienced psychosis for the first time when I was 19, and was told by a provider that I would never be able to work full-time because of my condition. The provider was wrong!  I work, volunteer and live the life that I want. It is not easy to live with my mental health conditions, but I am still grateful for them. They keep me authentic, and because of them I have been able to relate to many amazing people who also struggle.

Further Reading.

Some may look and see me as this tiny girl, while some may look and see their fellow sister in arms. I am a veteran. I have mental and physical disabilities obtained while in the service but have learned to adapt and overcome battles on a regular basis. I am no better than the veteran next to me. I have been blessed with the assistance of my fellow brothers and sisters who aided in my journey through transition into civilian life.

Loading ...