Help shatter stereotypes through open conversations between two people in a non-judgmental environment. This is an opportunity for those who’ve faced prejudice to tell their story and show people who they really are. And it’s a chance for others to change their preconceived notions based on a person’s appearance.
Join us for our first “Human Library” on Saturday, March 24, 2018 from 1-5 p.m. Our human books are community members who have volunteered to share their stories in order to break down barriers based on age, race, sexual orientation, religion, ability, lifestyle choices, or other aspects of their identity.
The Human Library is an international movement that started in Denmark in 2000 and is now held in more than 70 countries. The Wilton Library is the first public library in Connecticut to receive permission from the Human Library Organization to host an event.
I struggled with severe depression and anxiety my entire life. I thought I was doomed to be unhappy forever, so in my desperation to change my fate, I kept learning and experimenting. Although I have to make a conscious effort at all times to avoid slipping back into a dark place, I'm the happiest I've ever been at this point in my life. We have it in ourselves to overcome.
I came to Wilton in 2004 as a 14 year old kid from the south side of Chicago. I’d been given the chance to become an ABC scholar in Wilton, CT and despite my fears and apprehension, I decided to embrace the opportunity. As one of the few black students at Wilton High School, it was very intimidating at first and I questioned whether coming to Wilton was a good idea. My first year was a struggle to say the least. I felt like a kid with no home and I second guessed who I was. Ultimately, dealing with adversity helped me become a stronger person and today I can better face life's challenges.
We experienced anti-Semitism as a family living in a small town in Germany as early as 1933. A few years later, my Father was eager to bring his family to the U.S. What if he had not followed through on a tip about a man living in New York City with the exact same name? What if he had given up after the American wrote back refusing to help? The story of how my father found a sponsor to bring our family to the U.S. is miraculous; it is a story of luck, perseverance, and trust.
Despite being very straightforward, I am often misjudged by my appearance and demeanor. I have fronted a metal band in NYC for over 20 years, but my career and interests revolve around helping others. I am a retired FDNY paramedic and am currently an officiant for non-traditional weddings. As an animal lover, I train therapy dogs and foster near-feral cats for the ASPCA. Ask me anything about how I have faced adversity based on how I look.
I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 43. It was the happiest day of my life because it explained so many of the struggles I had had since childhood. I couldn't figure out how people without my privileges and advantages could accomplish things that seemed overwhelming to me. When I was diagnosed, I began medication and my entire life changed; it was such a relief to discover that I wasn’t crazy, stupid or lazy. Since then, I’ve learned my ADHD-related weaknesses—and strengths!
The older I get, it saddens me to realize that our country is not as far along as I hoped as it pertains to race relations. My husband and I, who are in an interracial marriage, have lived in Wilton for 20 years and raised three sons here. Sometimes I wonder if I fully prepared them for what it really takes to navigate in our American society being “different but equal”. So dig in and find out what it is like to raise biracial children in a world that constantly tells them and “us” that we are different but not always equal.
I was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer's disease in 2009, after serving as a caregiver for my father, who had the disease too. Now I have a mission to make a difference through advocacy and fundraising for the Alzheimer's Association. All too often the route taken is to crawl into a corner, not communicate, and retreat into social and physical isolation. But I believe there are ways to positively cope with this disease, to make one's life, and the lives of caregivers, more enriching.
Two years ago I was diagnosed with cancer, for the second time in four years. After being put into a medically induced coma, and suffering complete kidney failure, pulmonary embolisms, seizures, swelling of the brain, and many other problems, my daughter was in the unfortunate position of determining whether to keep me alive. My prognosis was most likely a wheelchair, dialysis and brain damage. Then the miracle happened: after 54 days, I woke.
After many years of symptoms manifesting themselves slowly but consistently, our son was diagnosed in his late 20s with rapid cycling bipolar disorder. This presented challenges to him and each member of our family. Working on my understanding as his mother had to be done in concert with being sensitive to and aware of the ever-evolving fears and confusion of his sisters and his dad. This life-long task for all of us is made easier by his courage and his wisdom.
Being a survivor of sexual assault in this society is difficult because "victim blaming" is often the reaction. Those of us who have been assaulted are made to feel that we were responsible and questioned why we weren't more proactive in stopping the assault. The prevention of sexual assault is heavily placed on the victim rather than examining societal beliefs and the responsibility of the perpetrator. I believe we all need to live in safety from violence and have tried to turn my pain into something productive and volunteer as a facilitator for sexuality education for youth.
In 2005 I became a special needs parent and my life changed forever. It’s been a lot of hard work and endless days and nights of soul searching, but I can honestly say that I am not only surviving; I am thriving. I have learned to focus on what I have, not on what I don’t; recognized my strengths and asked for help with my weaknesses. Happiness is a choice and I make every effort to choose it whenever possible.
I struggled with alcoholism most of my life. I quit on my own a few times, but kept returning because I felt that I should be able to handle it. Our society teaches us that we should be able to drink responsibly and if we can’t, it’s due to a character flaw. In my late 40's I joined Alcoholics Anonymous, experienced a positive change within a year…and it keeps getting better. If I can help others face addiction and find a path to recovery and happiness, I want to do that.
I have been living on my own for the past 25 years since my husband died. I have a full and interesting life - friends, community, church and more. While I am still able to get around, I have found increasing challenges since my eyesight and mobility have diminished. There are also certain things that have gotten beyond me, such as technology, but I keep up with Wall Street, sports and current events. Because you are old, it does not mean you should not be entitled to your own choices of where and how you live.
As a Christian, I am often discouraged by the misconceptions some have of those who believe and follow Jesus -- that we are judgmental, hypocritical, insensitive, anti-homosexual, too political, boring, inflexible and overly opinionated. Many years ago someone told me the reason they don't like Christians is because we think we're better than everyone else. We don't and we certainly aren't. I appreciate every opportunity to talk with people in hopes of dispelling that notion.
In my early adult years, I developed negative body image and starting dieting. Unfortunately, that diet almost killed me when I restricted my intake of food and over-exercised only to find myself wasting away at a mere 89 lbs. With the help of an amazing treatment team, family, and friends I was able to recover. However, the road back was neither linear nor easy. I am happy to say that I have been healthy for several years and happier than ever. You can be too!
I have been a practicing Pagan for over 25 years. I was brought up Christian and found myself spiritually lacking even though I went to church every week. I am a true believer that religion should feed your soul the way a good meal feeds your body. As time went on I found that this was not happening for me with Christianity; that is when my journey as a Pagan began. Many times I am asked if I put curses on people or worship the devil because of the portrayal of witches in movies and on TV. Let’s talk about what Pagans actually believe.
A lot of people don’t understand what the military can do for you. As a teenager growing up in Webster Groves, Missouri I was socially adept, but maturity challenged with no direction for the future. On a whim I took the NROTC test, passed and found myself in the Navy. It literally changed my life! They paid for my education (engineering and naval science) and sent me out to sea where I gained confidence and learned about leadership and responsibility. I am Navy through and through! I would encourage many young people to consider this path.
Life in India after college presented me with a traumatic experience followed by complete isolation and no support. I was accepted into an MBA program, but continued to suffer from stress, nightmares and unresolved pain until a friend introduced me to Mantra Meditation. Eventually I found myself with a good job and happily married until we moved to the U.S. Once again, I was isolated, suffered depression and had bouts of suicidal thoughts. So, I returned to mediation which literally saved my life! It has been more than a decade and now I dedicate my life to teaching kids and adults meditation.
I was blinded in combat in 1991 while serving in the US Army during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. My lack of sight did not stop me from graduating Magna Cum Laude for my B.A. in Social Work; nor has it slowed me down while pursuing a career in government positions and not-for-profit organizations, as well as extensive volunteer work with multiple veterans service organizations. First with a cane and now with a guide dog, I am figuring out how to navigate in a visually-oriented world. It is challenging, but resilience and adaptation make almost anything possible.
I didn’t begin running until my 40’s. Initially intimidated by even running 5 miles, I became addicted to racing everything from 5K to marathons. I made every mistake in my 1st marathon, really struggled the last few miles, got very sick, but still ran 3:07. Eventually ran a 2:49 and completed 2 ultra-marathons. Gave back by co-founding the Wilton Running Club. By my 50’s, the aches and pains caught up, so I get my endorphins from spinning 9-10X a week. Throughout I have tried to embrace my mentor's advice to stay humble, gracious and pay it forward.
Being adopted myself and now having adopted a daughter from China, I have experienced ignorance and disdain from people on both sides questioning the “validity” of our family as a “real daughter” or “real parents.” These days, as an adoptive parent, the challenges I face are uninformed and insensitive opinions, especially since my daughter does not look like us. I’m working on parenting her through her insecurities with understanding and love!
Five years ago my daughter was diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma. Some people focused on me and how I was going to survive it. I was worried about getting my daughter the proper care while keeping our family’s life somewhat normal. After two surgeries, 200 hospital nights, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy and endless amounts of meds and scans, Lyla is now a thriving 10 year old who loves to play soccer and lacrosse and ski every weekend she can. It’s not courage, but faith, family and friends that get you through it.