The Human Library Project will be hosted at the UTSC Student Centre on Wednesday, March 28. The event will explore Scarborough’s diverse cultures and communities through the theme of ‘Rebirth and Resiliency.’

The Human Library event will feature 12 speakers who can be ‘checked out’ for one-on-one, 25-minute conversations about their own personal narratives, which examine topics including race, class, and sexuality.

Here, storytelling is used as a strategy that bridges the gap between subjective dispositions and social structures, and the main objective of The Human Library is to encourage individuals to reflect upon the stories that have shaped their identities. The project gives the participants a platform to express their own stories of survival, growth and resiliency. In telling their stories, they will be able to play a part in determining the narrative and ethical shape of our world.

The participants involved in The Human Library are creative, enthusiastic, and original thinkers. They use a collection of mediums to tell their stories. For instance, Bidhan Berma will be telling his story, The Last Train East, through the medium of spoken word, whereas 16-year-old Indygo Arscott will be using her platform to showcase her resilience against anorexia nervosa through her story, How to Lose A Quarter of Yourself In All The Right Places.

The project is hosted by Hart House, the UTSC Department of Student Life, the UTSC Library, Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU), and ARTSIDEOUT. Trish Starling, the coordinator of the UTSC Hart House Human Library Project, graciously took the time to speak to The Varsity about the event.

The Varsity: What is the significance of this project?

Trish Starling: The Human Library Project is an exercise in empathy-building and giving people the opportunity to learn from each other through active listening.

TV: Why have the artists involved decided to be a part of it?

TS: This is a good question! We as the organizers cannot speak for them. We believe each human story will have a different reason for wanting to participate. We know from human stories who have participated in the past, some wanted the chance to express themselves and process their own stories more fully, others just thought it was a great way to establish connecting with strangers in a deeply human way.

TV: What are you, as organizers and people, hoping to achieve by hosting this project?

TS: As the organizers, we believe this project has the important job of providing a platform for hearing important stories that the dominant media, publishing houses, etc. may not provide to us. The collaboration first began between Hart House, UTSC Department of Student Life, and the SCSU’s VP Equity Nana Frimpong. We wanted to work together on a meaningful project that is aligned with our mission to deepen understanding of others. This was an opportunity to bring our different audiences and communities together in a positive way.

The Human Library event is free and will be held at UTSC’s Rex’s Den, in the Student Centre basement from 3:00–7:00 pm. You can drop in or register online.