What is a Living Library ?

- Blog | REYN Admin


Living Library is an innovative way to combat stigma, reduce prejudices, break stereotypes and promote understanding between people.

“Do not judge by its cover ” is the slogan of Living Library.

In the Living Library books are not made of paper, but are people of flesh and blood. Tales from parts of their lives are used to face the most common prejudices that affect them and to bring out individuals from a general category.

In reality,  the categories do not exist, instead there are people with their stories, all of which are different. It’s easy to stick prejudice to the categories, it is more complicated to do the same with the individuals.

The Living Library, dedicated to the subject and world of the Roma and their relationship with non Roma, is a subject that ABCittà and 21luglio has studied and presented with success in Italy.

“The Roma are thieves, they are dirty, they are too many, steal babies, do not want to live in the homes, …”

The human books, after a training, are ready to be read by the public and try to remove the prejudices that the reader sometimes does not even know to have.

The method of Living Library, proposed by ABCittà is, therefore, a process that becomes a working tool for social cohesion.

Brenda was the most widely read book in the edition of SarSan2.0 Living Library, project funded by BvLF, on June 12 which was held in Rome at the Library Goffedo Mameli.

Brenda | My dreams have vanished

Born in Italy, she could be one of the many children of the second generation, the new Italians. Brenda, however, sharply divided citizenship documents, to which she aspires, from that of the heart, even blood, which remains Roman. For her children – who knows – maybe things will be different. Perhaps the experiences of Casilino’s encampment first and Salone’s encampment today have marked too their young lives and have built their identity. Is it a choice or an imposition?

Here’s what Brenda thought before the event:

Tell us how did you feel in this path together?

I felt good, I spoke a little. I wondered how it will be the day of the Living Library, will I be uncomfortable when that day will come. I will not know who I will meet, what they will say. I do not know how readers will treat us. In the path of preparation for human books I felt very well.

 Did you know all the people in the training group?

I know some people. I was pleased to know other Roma women, it was natural. They are still Roma women. I have been happy with these women, I was fine with them. We understood each other, even if we were not of the same ethnic group.

How did you know what to say?

It was hard for me to figure out what to tell, because I did not know how to say it. Then I realized that I just had to tell my own story. So I could feel comfortable. I was not always clear to myself what I wanted to talk about. When I began to tell my own story I could make out of my head my thoughts. I could talk about it: I could tell what had happened to me .

Was this experience usefull for you?

 This experience helped me to open up. This experience helped me personally. It was also exhausting and painful. When you tell your story, some painful memories resurface, memories that hurt. This is what happened to me. I opened my heart to the people. I have told my own story and I felt at ease. If I will participate again in the Living Library I think I could open my heart even more. I could think better, knowing people allows you to express yourself better.

  What was the best thing that happened in this train

This whole experience was beautiful. The most important thing is that I’m surprised myself. When I spoke of my encampment I felt bad, but I managed to go forward. Maybe now I will be able to change the way of thinking of other people

Have you any concerns about the event on ?

 I am afraid that someone will tell me “gypsy” (zingara). Some people express themselves in that way. I am afraid that I will not know how to answer that. People unfortunately judge: “You are a gypsy!”. People can think what they want. I’ll tell my own story.

The comments of some of his readers:

“No problem: a nice chat and fluid … but how different and how much distance to cross to really get in tune: gender, age, culture, family, life story, …!”

“Brenda was just a nice book (living) to read!”

“A dreadful vitality despite metal bulldozers that have destroyed real acts”

“No dream fades if it remains in the eyes of the people, as has happened to you Brenda.”

And finally, Brenda tells us how she experienced the event of living Library:

 What did you feel on the day of the event ?

 Well, it was nice, people have seen how we are , how we behave , how is our character. They asked us a lot of information, how we live, they were curious. All this surprised me. I was quiet, I was not nervous. I have spoken with people, it seemed natural to talk to them .

 Have you thought about that day?

I thought about what has happened. It removed a weight,  I was lighter. I spoke with people and I felt better. I did well to talk to people, to talk about how we live. We, humans books, have intrigued our readers .

Do you think that has been helpful ?

Yes, this whole experience was helpful. This experience was useful for all of us and for readers. Now people really know how we live , how we behave. I think we broke stereotypes.

Would you like to attend another edition of living library ?

Sure. It was a nice experience. I would not change anything, because it was a beautiful. I would not change anything.