Posted by: bluelion | December 6, 2015

Let’s read… HONY Stories in a book!

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#18 Brandon Stanton: Humans of New York – Stories (St.Martin’s Press, 2015)

Yes, I pre-ordered this one, too! (Just like the new Shopaholic novel.) I had to wait for the delivery though, since this is a book book ;)

It is a much loved hard copy, which is a strange experience for me, as I read most books on kindle these days. It is easier that way with sleeping kids around. I don’t need both hands and proper lighting for it. Humans of New York is a blog I follow on Facebook mainly and now I can enjoy it without looking like a Facebook-/smartphone-addict. Yay!

Wow, how this book can be so much more than the blog or the facebook page!

What power lies in editing! (Look at pages 198-199!) I just love how the photos are placed next to each other. A group of youngsters saying something about the police on one page, a policeman on the opposite page. A man complaining about women starting to act like his mother, facing a woman telling how she felt like a nagging mother with her partner, on the next page. Some statements that make you raise your eyebrows, and the last person on the page telling it plainly: I have mental illnesses.

Some eyes I found hard to wrench myself away from. The man on page 209 gripped me with the pure pain and loneliness screaming from his eyes. His mouth shut. Such a powerful gaze. His story only supporting it. It’s like he is trapped in that body, silently screaming for help.

Then there are the ones that make you smile. My favourite rebel on pages 130-131: “Sometimes I stay up late without asking.”. You have to see that face, too! I remembered him from the Facebook page. And my all-time favourite on pages 310-311: that’s what I call imagination – and innovation!

I was really surprised to see how well I remembered some of these faces and their stories. Their lives touched mine so deeply in just a few words that I look at a face and remember their lines. We are all in this together, right? “No man is an island” (John Donne).

It was great to see Vidal again, remembering and re-reading his story, seeing his photo with the President. So many of the stories inspire a wave of generosity from the HONY community, I sometimes wonder whether it will reach its limits one day.

Sometimes I wanted to comment on the photo, other times I wanted to see what others have commented. Out of curiosity or for some advice if the caption hit close to home. The community is such a vital part of the HONY experience, the next book will probably be HONY: Stories and top comments. Or HONY Fractions (you know what I’m talking about).

These days, Brandon is sharing the stories of Syrian families cleared for resettlement in the United States. When he goes global, commenters like to call it HOPE – Humans of Planet Earth. Indeed, he teaches us about the people he meets wherever he goes. He crushes our prejudices and teaches us to be accepting, kind and nonjudgmental. As Lori Duron of Raising my Rainbow said so many times, “to have an open heart and an open mind”. Lori’s was another blog-turned-book I read this year and I felt I shouldn’t have bought it. It was a bit wearing to read as I constantly felt I read those stories before and was just hoping to finish the book as soon as possible. Don’t get me wrong, I love that blog but I didn’t enjoy the book. However, with Humans of New York – Stories, it was just the opposite. It was nice to recognize so many of the stories and really enjoyable to re-read them. Great, sometimes funny, other times heavy stories, whole lives, sometimes in a single sentence. It is intense like Hemingway. Many mini-Hemingways. You have to stop after about ten pages, to give time to yourself to process it. (Have you heard there was an app called Hemingway? It promises to make your writing bold and clear. I should test it in another post.)

Brandon Stanton must have a special gift for gaining the trust of strangers. He is exceptionally sensitive to other people’s lives and presents us with this bunch of case studies without ever judging anybody. (Maybe that is his secret.) And when I say ‘us’, I mean more than 16 million Facebook followers. Yes, really.

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Responses

  1. […] Humans of New York – Stories by Brandon Staton, a perfect gift for any HONY-fan, and there are more than 16 million of us, you know. […]

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