Human books on loan at ACU

Books can be paper or electronic but at Australian Catholic University’s Brisbane campus, they can also come in the shape of living humans.

Staff and students at the university will be able to borrow a human book next week in a scheme designed to increase understanding through human contact.

Human Books are volunteers from all walks of life, who are willing to share their personal stories. Readers reserve a “book” for a time, borrow it for a 20-minute conversation, and then return it so the next person can borrow.

Titles include How Rugby Helped Me Understand my Sexuality, Why I want to be a priest, Navigating Anorexia, and Homelessness @80.

Librarian Kelly Dann said she was delighted to have recruited a range of volunteers who would provide an opportunity for staff and students to learn about different life experiences.

“Human Books often represent groups in our society that are subjected to prejudice, discrimination, exclusion or stigmatisation because of their lifestyle, belief, disability, economic or social status, ethnic origin, gender, sexuality, age or life experience.

“Borrowers will be able to sit down and have a one-on-one conversation with somebody about their life experience. As we have learned from how much people miss it in the Covid lockdowns, there is nothing like direct human contact.”

Among the Human Books is Yes, I Can: Never Assume, the title given to singer Tony Dee, the stage name of Tony Doevendans, a successful musician with spina bifida.

He hopes he will be able to contribute to borrowers’ understanding of what it’s like to have lived experience of disability.

“I think borrowers can develop a greater understanding of people with disabilities, and in particular be further educated on social and workplace interactions with them.”

Virginie Fortin has called herself Love Yourself. She left France at the age of 20 to come to Australia to study and follow her heart. After five children, a few relationships and surviving breast cancer, she burnt out and had to find the strength to rebuild. She hopes being a human book will help others learn from her journey.

“I was always running everywhere for everybody and one day I did not I did not have anything anymore inside to give.

“Hopefully the borrowers will start to consider the question of “Are we really loving ourselves?” I will share my energy, my happiness, and my enthusiasm about life, to accept the good with the bad, stop finding excuses and be kind to themselves.”


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