From Peru to the Bay
Our Human Library Book of the Month is a series of portraits of our books created with the purpose of offering our readers a chance to understand the diversity and variety within our bookshelves around the world. It also provides unique insights into the motivations and values of being a book and volunteering for our organization.
Two years on the bookshelf has helped our Book of the Month learn as much about himself, as he has about his readers. The journey has not been easy, but it has always been rewarding, says Leonardo Blas Urrutia or Leo as his friends call him.
He is a young man, full of life, ambition, energy and optimism. A man with a gentle nature and a quiet pleasant presence. He takes time to find his words and you can tell he is very keen to be clear, as one former US president liked to say. Because there has been some misunderstandings for the 22 year old college student from Peru, now living in Californias Bay Area.
“I joined the Human Library two years ago after I saw an ad on campus for an upcoming event at Foothill College, where I study. The ad made me realise that I had rarely questioned my stance on how other people treated and perceived me. I tried to ignore and normalize experiences like being underlooked for being a community college student, or being called a Mexican despite asserting I’m Peruvian.”
For Leo the library has been an opportunity to better understand himself and his readers.
“When I learned about the library I felt an impulse I knew I had to follow, and I haven’t stopped. I’ve used the Human Library events as avenues to engage in conversation with myself and my readers, and have scratched the surface of topics I never thought were part of my life. For instance, after opening up during my first event, at Foothill College, I noticed that I had several misconceptions about myself, and that the most rational action I could take was to visit a counselor, which led to a PTSD diagnosis. And during one of my most recent events, hosted by UCLA, telling a Japanese family about my personal struggles while studying led me into counseling again, and an ADHD diagnosis.”
Human Library events take place in high schools, colleges, universities, libraries, community centres but also in work places. One of Leo´s finest moments as an open book happened during a reading for staff from eBay.
“It was my first corporate event and I was published at eBay’s headquarters in San Jose. After opening up to a group of four employees and telling them about the financial and socioeconomic struggles my family faced during our early stages, a lady of african american background empathized and resonated with my story. I saw tears dropping from her eyes as I spoke about the violence and insecurity I faced as a child and how my parents worked hard to pull my family out of that environment. After the reading we approached each other and hugged. It was a very heart-warming experience for me.”
Leo is on loan from the Human Library Bay Area Book Depot and this month among other he will be published online for staff from MASCO Corporation and as part of the collection for Unjudgement Day at the end of June. Helping us mark 20 years of Human Libraries across the world.