Me, a Human Book in a Human Library


When Impact Hub KL invited me to be a Human Book in their Human Library for an event planned in collaboration with Johor Corporation, I was deeply humbled and much intrigued.


I was a Human Book at the Human Library
with one of the groups who came to read me! 

My thoughts raced back to a time when stories were passed down from generation to generation by word-of-mouth and I am the grateful recipient of countless stories that my grandmother shared with me.


My grandmother – whom I dubbed The Real Champion – passed on at the ripe old age of 103 and while she was still lucid, she was a fountain of information not only on family affairs but also of life in a bygone era.


As I patiently listened to her repeated stories over the years, valuable nuggets of information were inevitably stuck in my memory and later when I was writing about Johor culture and heritage, I joined the dots and discovered – among other things – our link to the Wong family in Johor.


The Human Books in the Human Library
with their Readers who could choose the
Books they wished to read
My grandmother was in fact, my Human Book who shared valuable stories that went on to help me flesh out my heritage stories documented in My Johor Stories.


In a series of online meetings with Impact Hub KL, I soon learnt about the concept of the Human Library (Read more at webpage. where the objective of the exercise was to un-judge someone.


An online read told me that the Human Library is an international organization and movement that started in 2000 in Copenhagen, Denmark.


The bunting which reminds us:

This organization uses the analogy of a Library where participants borrow Human Books to read/ask questions and aims to address people’s prejudices by guiding them to have conversations with the Books to remove any social stigmas.


The Human Library has been hailed as an incredible social experiment that promotes human rights and social cohesion, something that every vibrant community needs.


In this special Library, the Books are living-breathing people who will share their experiences through conversations with the Readers.


At the Human Library, Readers/participants are welcome to borrow the Human Books to read/have conversations, with the aim to understand and accept each other.


For the event, the Human Books will be placed in a Library/space and the Readers/participants are free to move around, to read the Books of their choice.


This was probably the largest group of Readers who came to read this Human Book!

After giving their invitation considerable thought, I accepted the invite to work in collaboration with JCorp in this event to challenge existing stigmas and prejudices through the art of storytelling.


It was good to engage with the Readers 
and respond to their queries on My Johor Stories

Over the next few days, Impact Hub KL was in touch with me to coordinate the logistics for the event, get my photograph to create their poster and discuss other relevant details.


Then in a WhatsApp message, the organizer said, “Just to share with you, Tunku Fatimah Faridah Osman will be attending the event as well…”.


I then learned that one of the Human Books invited to participate was from the Johor Cerebral Palsy Association, where Tunku Fatimah was Chairman, and so intrigued was she about this event that she was also keen to attend.


Another group of happy Readers after
their reading time with the Human Book

In reply to this snippet of information, I mentioned that it would be good to meet with Tunku Fatimah again because I could tell her that I was writing a Culture-Heritage piece on her namesake, Sultanah Fatimah of Johor, for Book Three of My Johor Stories.


I will also let Tunku Fatimah know that she will be quoted in my story on the Johor Baru Convent (we are fellow alumni!) where she pays tribute to her great-grandfather, Sultan Sir Ibrahim, who presented the land at Jalan Yahya Awal to the Infant Jesus Sisters to build the school.


On the day before the Human Library event was scheduled to happen, I received the event poster emblazoned with the headline, MEET THE HUMAN BOOKS, that listed five other Human Books with portrait photos, each captioned as The Refugee, Overweight Girl, Orang Asli, Cerebral Palsy, Sexually Harassed, along with me, The Author.


My Johor Stories and me as the
Human Book at the Human Library

The next morning, when I stepped out of the opened elevator doors to the Cerebrum at Menara KomTAR in the heart of Johor Baru, my eyes were riveted to the bunting that read, Labels are for clothes and not human beings.


As I was warmly welcomed in, I noticed that this motto was also printed in bold Black letters on the back of the event White T-shirt worn by the Impact Hub KL and JCorp team members. On the far wall, I spotted the event poster on a wide screen.


After more than two years of uncertainties, it was so good to meet again face-to-face in such a gathering and reconnect with my friends in JCorp and DASB Property Management.


The Human Books were invited for a briefing before the Readers arrived at the Human Library and with the briefing over, the Books were ushered into the event hall where each Book was shown to our respective sections of the hall.


With another group of Readers at
the Human Library event

The Readers were also briefed with relevant guideline and given a Library Card where they should write down the list of Books they have read at the event.


Just as in real libraries, there were Librarians assigned to keep an eye and ensure that the Human Books were not abused by any Readers…


This was the first time I was participating in such a live event, and while I did not know what to expect, I was confident that the Librarians would come to my rescue if there happened to be any recalcitrant Reader here.


Another group of Readers were thrilled
to discover the contents in My Johor Stories
There were also time-keepers to help the Books bring their conversations to a close at the end of 20 minutes so that the Readers could move on to read their choice of the next Book.


Meanwhile I had obtained prior approval from the organizer to bring my books along and use Book One and Two of My Johor Stories to show visuals and clarify any points in our conversations.


I was after all The Author among these Human Books and it was always good to have my physical books on hand to support my storytelling.


A precious shot captured with a Reader who
had the courage and tenacity to express his
support for My Johor Stories!

Time really flies when you are having fun, and I kept hearing the time-keeper who popped by to softly say, “Five minutes more,” to remind me to wind up our conversation soon.


It was very encouraging to see how my Readers were delighted to discover that my Grandfather’s Stories and Johor culture and heritage were not boring subjects but agreed that it was a proud heritage that should be treasured.


They also learned that it was a lot of hard work to document true stories about real people because it does matter that what was written is true and accurate.


It was good to share that there was a great deal more that went into writing, publishing and distributing books by local writers and that it was important for the local community to support this effort.


A section of the wall pasted with Post-It
stickers with feedback from the Readers

I, however, also observed that some Readers were keen to read this Book even though they were not conversant in English and I must commend them for their courage and interest in My Johor Stories.


All too soon, the time allocated for reading was up and Readers were invited to write their feedback on multi-colour Post-It stickers and paste them on the wall.


At the close of the event, the organizer asked several Readers for their comments and how they have unjudged someone after their reading time with the Human Library.


Then everyone gathered for a photo session before lunch.


Meanwhile the JCorp videography team was busy recording videos of the individual Human Books to prepare a corporate video of their exciting Human Library event.


Check it out here:

Photo Credits: Johor Corporation and Impact Hub KL

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