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May 01, 2023

The Library Is a Haven

By Tasha Jun

2023 is the year of stories at Hamilton East Public Library. Every month on our blog, we’re featuring a guest writer from our community to share in their own words what the library means to them. We hope these stories will demonstrate that there’s something for everyone at the library, and you belong here. 

Our May library story speaks about the library as a safe haven, a place with open doors that provides transformative welcome for people from diverse backgrounds.

“I remember sitting cross-legged on a gray classroom carpet while my teacher, Miss Lapolt, opened up Louis Sachar’s Someday Angeline. Everyone was quiet and still, waiting to hear what happened next in this young character’s life. No matter what arguments we’d had on the playground or who had been hogging the electric pencil sharpener by the back window of the classroom earlier, we were all the same now: eager, attentive, and quiet.

I loved storytime. I loved hearing someone read a story and carry the details of a character’s life with their voice. As I grew older, storytimes grew fewer and fewer, but I became someone who looked for stories because of those early experiences.

In junior high, I biked or walked to and from school. My walk home led me through our winding neighborhood in the afternoons, but at some point, I encountered a stranger that altered what had been a peaceful end to a long day at school.

He was standing in his yard by a lawn mower the first time I saw him. The mower was off, and when our eyes met, he was glaring. I looked behind me and across the street to see if I misunderstood where his gaze intended to land. There was no one else there. I felt a chill through my twelve-year-old body. I looked away as he stood there, never taking his eyes off of me, never stopping his hard glare. My heart beat faster and so did my feet.

When I finally turned the corner, I took a deep breath. He hadn’t followed me. He just glared. I hoped it was a fluke. I racked my brain, trying to remember if I’d ever met this man before or why he would be glaring at me. I’d never seen him before that day. I think back and wonder: Was it because I was Asian? A little girl? And, why?

The next few days he was there, and every day, he stopped what he was doing to glare at me.

So, instead of going straight home, I decided to start going to the library. I convinced a few friends, and we ended up going there together to hang out, finish our homework, and for me, to be and feel safe.

The library was a haven for me.

Safe from scary strangers, I found comfort in the aisles of stories, the calming atmosphere, and the open doors.

Years after this, I would carry the memory of a library’s safety and welcome deep inside of me. The crinkle of a library book cover, the first steps into a library building, and the rows of books waiting patiently for me all became things I associated with these feelings.

I felt it all over again as a new mom bringing my young children to storytime at Hamilton East Public Library in Fishers. Suddenly, I wasn’t a mom alone. I was among other moms in my community, and our kids were experiencing storytime and the kindness of those who value stories. I could feel my inner child sitting cross-legged and eager on the carpet all over again. I could feel my inner tween’s shoulders relax and release tension as I walked among books and kind people.

Tasha’s debut book is available now!

In the years since, the library is still one of my favorite places. It’s where I can find other Asian American stories when I feel alone here in Fishers in my Asian American skin. It’s where books like Lyla Lee’s Mindy Kim series sit on the shelf to remind my youngest of three that other kids bring kimchi and seaweed to school too. It’s where my teenager can read about Korean folktales folded into fantasy novels in Yoon Ha’s Tiger Honor and Dragon Pearl and learn about and gain an appetite for his own Korean heritage. At the Fishers Library, I regularly find stories and book covers that reflect my own reality as an Asian American woman and mom, and so do my own Asian American and mixed-race kids.

When I hear about book bans or fear surrounding books that celebrate diversity, I think of that neighbor who glared at me and how the library welcomed me instead. I think of how it was libraries and bookstores where I found books and self-taught myself the Asian American history I hadn’t been taught in school. I think of the way libraries have always given me wide space to be me, and I hope my children and their children will experience the same kind of haven and transformative welcome that libraries uniquely bring.”

About Tasha Jun:

Tasha is a biracial Korean American melancholy dreamer, wife, and mom, who grew up in a multicultural and biracial home. She’s spent her life navigating cultural collisions and liminal space. She sees the world best through stories and poetry. She is passionate about helping others notice beauty and embrace themselves as wholly beloved image bearers. She writes about everyday life, faith, and cultural and ethnic identity with an ache and with hope.

Her debut book, Tell Me the Dream Again: Reflections on Family, and the Sacred Work of Belonging, releases on May 9th and is available now, wherever books are sold. Find her at https://www.tashajun.com

Have your own library story to share? Tell us about it here, and we’ll pick a few to be featured on our blog! You can also find storytelling resources and tips here

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