At The Human Library, The Books Are People And The Stories Are All True – 90.5 WESA

Posted: August 2, 2017 at 8:46 am

Stories from the Human Library launch at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh East Liberty branch on Monday, July 31, 2017.

The meeting space was standing-room-only at the Carnegie Library branch in East Liberty at Mondays launch of Pittsburghs Human Library project.

A library is, essentially, a collection of information and stories that live inside books, on tape or via DVD. In a human library, the stories are told aloud by the people who lived them. The idea started in Denmark in 2000, as a way to break down stereotypes and has since made its way around the world.

Dan Schlegel, 67, of McKeesportwas one of the storytellers at Mondays event. The audience was rapt as he recounted how he nearly lost his life on his 21stbirthday, three weeks after deploying to Vietnam. He was in the outhouse, feeling sorry for himself that hed have no cake or candles that year.

Then all of a sudden I hear [a whistling sound], I know its a rocket, I hit the floor, next thing I know, the whole outhouse blows up on top of me, Im shaking but I can feel fingers and toes and my nose, and Im like Well, Im still alive, Schlegel said.

It was the first of many experiences that all added up to leave Schlegel with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The best description I can give is when I came home from Vietnam, my body came back, but I felt like my mind was in hold baggage. It didnt show up for close to a year, he said.

Evalynn Farkas, 21, a senior at Chatham University, said she also suffers from PTSD.

Sometimes I tell my friends I feel like a ghost, Farkas said. Not existing inside this world or outside of it. Thats the best way I know to describe it.

She said growing up in an abusive home and surviving multiple rapes and sexual assaults has caused her to experience memory loss, panic attacks, anxiety and nightmares. But she said the library and academic have been her solace, and despite the challenges she faces she holds four jobs and is on track to graduate in May. She said she hopes to build a career helping other women who have experienced trauma.

You are here, you will heal, Farkas said. Be gentle to yourself.

Jayme Lynn McIntyre, 57, of East Liberty, said after living as a man for more than 50 years, surviving sexual assault, and struggling with addiction, she became depressed and suicidal.

I can be in a really big room like this and we can all be laughing and talking, and meanwhile Im thinking Id love to get up on that damn steeple and just swan dive off and end it, you know, just end it, McIntyre said.

She credited the behavioral health and social services available in Pittsburgh with saving her life. And though it took her decades to start living as her authentic self, she said its better late than never.

I want you all to know that its never too late to [join] the party just show the hell up, she said.

Organizers said this weeks event was only a launch, and that they expect more Human Library events to pop up around the city exploring different topics in a variety of settings in the coming months.

Groups and individuals interested in hosting a Human Library event can get in touch with Kali Stull at the Consumer Health Coalition.

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At The Human Library, The Books Are People And The Stories Are All True - 90.5 WESA

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