The library will be closed on Monday, January 20th, in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

December 7th | Frizzell Study Hall

The Woburn Public Library and SCI Woburn are teaming up to bring another unique opportunity to the community: The Human Library–an event that gives you the chance to dismantle prejudice, one 15 minute conversation at a time.

Before you meet the books, read an excerpt!


Meghan Bierenbroodspot

Title: The Freedom to Be Happy

About the book:

My childhood was traveled on turbulent roads of poverty, homelessness and trauma. Without education of support in the area I fell to the life of addiction through most of my teens. After waking up at 17 praying for a different life, I found redemption in getting sober through professional help. 

I moved to Boston to follow a stronger support set up and shortly became pregnant with my first son. Although this was vulnerable territory my son brought a new desire to heal and desire to stop the patterns that were running like a spinning wheel through many generations. With daily repetition of reading, counseling and utilizing the resources that would educate me on substance abuse, trauma recovery and choosing success each day I am 16 years sober. 

I am married with another son and have achieved a full time marketing career. I am also able to give back in my community by being President of youth sports leagues and counsel young women through pregnancy and breastfeeding. While raising my two sons to be productive members of society. 

Every day I wake up and get to accomplish anything I work hard for. I am allowed in my mind to advocate for myself and my family instead of feeling defeated by my own thoughts as I lived much of my life doing. My mind is free to choose, and that is the best gift I could have ever received. I’m 33, and I have never felt more alive and willing to meet each day with a sense of adventure and to be a success.


Amy Cardoso

Title: “But why can’t he just get a green card?!”: From Undocumented Immigrant to U.S. Citizen

About the book:

I am the U.S. citizen wife of a formerly-undocumented immigrant from Brazil. I’d like to tell you about our life “living in the shadows” in Massachusetts, without legal status here, how hard it is for most undocumented people to get a green card, my husband’s eventual attainment of US citizenship, and what we do now as immigrant-rights activists to change our nation’s broken system. 

We want others to know that more people are undocumented than the average Woburnite might think, and that we are your neighbors and friends. Currently, there are very few ways for most undocumented people to ever receive legal status in the USA, but that doesn’t mean we can’t fight for change! I can share ways to get involved with the immigrant-rights community in the Greater Boston area.


Bill Hoch

Title: A Forgiven People

About the book:

After 48 years of thinking about it, I started the process to become an ordained minister. All it took was a nudge from God. One day as I was in a Bible study, God reminded me that “You are forgiven.” Clear as day, I heard God’s voice. That moment convinced me that we are all forgiven people. No matter who we are or what we have done, God offers forgiveness and a second chance. Now I’m using my second chance to be the pastor at the Woburn United Methodist Church and reminding people of the power of forgiveness. 

In some ways, this makes no sense. I grew up in the United Church of Christ and I’ve been practicing law as an employment lawyer for over 25 years. I have two teenage sons. There are things about the global United Methodist Church with which I disagree. No expected a complete life change at 48, but, apparently, that is the plan. 

Now I lead worship, write sermons, counsel people, unclog toilets, visit jails and hospitals, deal with furnace and elevator repair, feed the hungry, clothe the shivering, and put out the recycling. And I love it. I’ve got the best job in the world (pastor) and the best boss (God). In my spare time, I am pursuing my Masters of Divinity at Boston University; I advise businesses about employment law and investigate claims of employee misconduct; and I’m with my family (preferably in the outdoors) as much as possible.

I truly believe there is nothing we can do to separate ourselves from God’s love. We may not feel it or believe in it, but God is with us always. I also believe that we have a duty to do everything we can to show love to the world around us. Peace, justice, charity, love, forgiveness, humility, inclusion, welcoming: these are the qualities God wants us to show the world.  

I’m not interested in conversion. I’m interested in all of us working together for a better world. And I’d love to discuss this with you. 


Ursel Hughes

Title: Recovery: A Life-Long Journey

About the book:

Ursel’s story sounds like the plot of a gritty TV drama, where the detectives are the main characters and the victims are in the background, and exist only to add meaning to the hard work that the detectives do.  Except she’s a real person, with a real story, who has overcome tremendous odds to be here today.

Every bad thing that could happen to a little girl happened to Ursel. Abandonment and abuse led to a lifestyle of commercial sexual exploitation, where she was trafficked across state lines (throughout the US). She grew up in this toxic environment and experienced all of the things that can come from it, including physical and mental abuse, addiction, and homelessness, and the inability to get a “regular” job.

Ursel struggled mightily to get out of this difficult life and to provide for her kids. She eventually began her last downward slide and left her three children (thinking they were better off without her) to live on the street, where she fell into a pattern of using drugs and being exploited (living to use, and using to live).

This went on until the day before her birthday in 2009. She experienced a moment of grace that gave her the strength to try one more time.  Ursel entered into a continuum of care. She got a therapist, she worked her program, she did the hard work of healing from her own circumstances and worked to help her kids heal from theirs. None of this was easy. Ursel leaned heavily on God. And God held her up.

This year, Ursel celebrated 10 years in recovery. She’s reconnected, living with, and parenting her daughters, and is working on reconnecting with her son.


Luis Landaverde

Title: Chasing Dreams!

About the book:

My name is Luis Landaverde. I was born in El Salvador. I have been in this country for about three years. I will tell you about a little bit about myself. When I was a little kid, I was treated poorly and considered a burden by my grandparents who I lived with. I lived without necessities and was constantly put to work on chores. I arrived in this country in need of better opportunities. I was looking for the chance to stop putting my life in danger trying to attend school. 

I feel like I am living in a dream because I never imagined I would see myself in this place, doing the things I have done with the help of many people. When I came to the US in my junior year of high school, I was afraid because I did not know the language. In my first year, I learned English and even made the National Honor Society. I received much support in my two years in high school to help me through my journey as an undocumented student. 

Even with this support, I did not know what would happen after graduation. College is expensive, and being undocumented prevented me from pursuing other options. Then I learned about the program Year Up. When I went to the program and they told me about the Cyber Security track and that I would be earning college credits, I couldn’t believe it! I never gave up on chasing my dreams. 


Dennis Maher

Title: Soldier, Inmate, Exoneree, Father

About the book:

Dennis Maher was exonerated by DNA testing in 2003, after he was convicted of sexual assault and spent 19 years in prison.  In 1983, Dennis was an Army sergeant assigned to Fort Devens and was arrested because he was wearing a red hoodie similar to the one worn by the actual perpetrator.  His conviction was based on severely flawed eyewitness identification protocols.  Once when asked how he saw his future, Dennis said that he would ultimately be exonerated by DNA evidence, start work two months after his release, get married and have children.  Two months after his release Dennis was hired as a diesel mechanic for a local company, fell in love with and married his wife Melissa and has two children, Josh and Aliza.


Fatima Majeed

Title: Hidden Behind a Smile

About the book:

I am not a traditional Muslim–I don’t wear hijab. It was my freshman year of high school, January 29th, 2018–the day after my birthday. I decided to wear my hijab, to express who I am. There was something strange that day.  My classmates, who I talked to everyday, did not even respond to my “hi”. They looked at me and just went away. This made me scared because I was not ready to see people staring at me and not talking to me. I had just moved to the US, and I barely had enough English to communicate. I really want to open up people and tell them what it [wearing hijab] actually means.


Karen Manna

Title: Yes, You Can!

About the book:

I am a parent, grandparent, adoptive parent, and a foster parent.  When our two birth children were in college, my husband and I decided to become foster parents.  Since that time we have adopted three daughters as infants who are now 17, 15 and 8. We continue to be a foster family, and I am also an ambassador and recruiter for the Department of Children and Families (DCF).


Steve Penella

Title: Just Keep Moving

About the book:

I am 59 years old and I have suffered, episodically, from major depressive episodes since I was a senior in high school. The depressive episodes were generally accompanied with anxiety.  In fact, I was diagnosed with major depressive order and generalized anxiety order. Along the way, I have had to take medical leaves from work. 

Despite that, I have had a successful career in high tech since 1985.  

These episodes usually lasted from about 3-9 months.  When I was 50 I had the worst and longest episode I had ever had.  It lasted 5 years. I was hospitalized for the first time in that period.  I was also hospitalized a 2nd time after a half-hearted suicide attempt. During that time I had ECT (electro convulsive therapy) and had my meds changed quite often.  I was in a CBT outpatient program 4 times over those 5 years. In 2015, the episode lifted and I have been well ever since. The CBT really helped me learn how to manage my condition.  I have also been off meds for over a year.


Gretchen Pollard-Ramos

Title: The Closeted Ally

About the book:

Until I started teaching in Woburn, the district where my children attend school, where it is known that they have two mothers, I have lived “in the closet”. When I was teaching in other districts, only my closest coworkers knew that my spouse was a woman. Even though teachers love to celebrate new homes, engagements, weddings, babies, and I love participating in the celebrations, did not allow the celebrations to happen for me. I never had a picture of my family on my desk like everyone else did, and when coworkers or students asked about my name change after I was married or my “husband” I quickly glossed over the topic.  Why would I ever do that to myself? l feared losing my job. Since I was the only teacher at the school that taught special education English, I did not want a parent or student complaint to force administration to remove me from my beloved position. So, it was easier to keep quiet, even though I felt so much shame, especially since I was also a co-advisor of the Gay-Straight Allaince. It was hypocritical to preach self-love to students as I hid my own identity. Now, I am able to live authentically. I am out as a teacher to students, I am out to coworkers, and administration has only been welcoming. I am an advocate for LGBTQ+ youth as the Woburn High School Spectrum Club Advisor. You may have seen some of the work that we have done.  We are the group that spearheaded Woburn LGBTQ+ Pride 2019. There is still so much more work to be done, and I am happy to be doing it in the public eye, with my wife and children by my side.


Sara C. Quinn

Title: Getting to Know You…

About the book:

I am lucky enough to have beaten the suicide demon twice and lived long enough–5 years–to find the right meds (thanks to my amazing psychiatrist). I’ve been in remission since December, 2012. My family is still coming to terms with their feelings about this.

I work hard to stay focused on my health–especially weight & exercise. My acceptance of this new reality is still hard. NAMI presentations have been an excellent way to share my story with others, and be in a place with no stigma.


Daniel Sullivan

Title: Bouncing Back

About the book:

The word “resilient” does not nearly do me justice. I am 66 years old and have been living with bi-polar disorder all my life. My first “mixed state” (an occurrence where symptoms of mania and depression happen simultaneously), came when I was 13. Do the math. I have 53 years of lived experience.

It’s been a bumpy road, to say the least. I was first hospitalized in 1971, in my senior year of high school when I was 17. I won’t go into details of the horrors I was subjected to, but suffice it to say, they very nearly killed me twice.I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, but , because of my experience there, I would have nothing to do with the mental health system. 

Thus began 23 years of denial. When I would have a manic episode and become unable to work and my family unequipped to deal with me, I would end up homeless. This began a course of going manic, eventually coming down, and returning to work; but inevitably after a period of months or even a few years, I would have another manic episode and my life would end up, once more, in shambles.

After I almost lost my job at the Post office, I finally decided I had had enough. I was 40 years old–much too old for this. Self medicating, I finally admitted, just wasn’t working. This disease was bigger than me. I went into treatment.

I won my job back through arbitration, stayed sober, and for the next 20 years I was a productive employee and was able to retire in 2013. After retirement from the Post Office, I decided that peer support and counseling would be my next career. I passed several trainings and now do a lot of work for NAMI, DBSA, and other organizations in the Greater Boston area and this work keeps me healthy, engaged, and gratified that I can use my life experience to provide empathy and support for others.


Murray Wheeler Jr.

Title: Ready!

About the book:

I’ve been with SpeakOut for six or eight years and have found it very rewarding.  I’m retired, an avid tennis player, do a whole variety of volunteer work, and sing in the Chorus pro Musica in Boston.  After my BA from Yale, a year teaching in Switzerland, and a tour in the Navy (during Vietnam!), I spent two years on Wall Street and ten with a startup in environmental technology in Denver and Chicago.  I came to Boston in 1980 and have done numerous things including sales, real estate, and fund-raising. I currently have a small bed and breakfast in mid-Cambridge.  I’ve had a wonderful partner since the late 90s when he completed his PhD at Harvard.  He works for the World Bank in Washington and was just up for the long Thanksgiving weekend.  I’m looking forward to what will surely be a unique experience up in Woburn tomorrow.