Imagine reading an autobiography and then, upon completing the book, having a one-on-one discussion with the writer. The premise of the PuSh Festival's Human Library is similar, but it cuts the reading out of the process entirely.
Instead, readers borrow a ‘human book’ for 20 minutes at a time, and actively engage with the book as they share their story. This year's curated collection, presented by Zee Zee Productions, covers 30 titles that range from 'Drag King' to 'In Recovery' and 'Eight-Year-Old Inventor'.
The world's first Human Library began in Denmark as a way to encourage non-violence and break down barriers of unfamiliarity. It has since spawned a global movement, being adapted in more than 30 countries.
Local comedian Mark Hughes is a book in the festival's production, and over the course of the next three weekends, he'll be sharing his story with eager ‘readers’ at the Vancouver Public Library's central branch.
"It's like an exhibit of people who come from various walks of life, who all have somewhat of a unique perspective or story," says Hughes.
"The purpose of it is for people to come in and to get to know, for 20 minutes, someone they might not otherwise meet in day-to-day life.... It's basically to break down the walls of otherness."
Hughes says the beauty of the production is the way it can bring out connection and intimacy between two complete strangers.
His story, called, 'Tragedy + Time Served = Comedy', proves a simple fact of life: just as you can't judge a book by its cover, you can't judge a person by their past.
Watch the video below to hear part of his story, check out the Human Library in person.