This was the first ‘Living Library’ event that I’d participated in, so I wasn’t really sure what my experience as a book would be. My book was titled ‘Talk to the Hijabi!’, as I wanted to share my lived experiences of being a Muslim woman who wears a hijab (head scarf) living in the UK.

As readers started to turn up I felt a little nervous. What if the conversation is awkward or stilted? What if nobody wants to talk to me? Well, I didn’t need to worry about any of this. Every conversation I had was with someone who was genuinely interested in my story and all the questions that were asked and all the discussions which took place were done with respect and sincerity. If I’m honest, I half expected questions to be of the manner of something along the lines of, ‘Do you wear your head scarf in the shower?!!!’ (‘Erm no!’ *Awkward*).None of the conversations I had were awkward and every conversation flowed very naturally. I felt I was able to open up and share my experiences with readers very easily because of the safe and respectful environment and also because of their genuine interest, which I was pleasantly surprised at.

What I would like to hope that the readers took away from my conversations with them is that the hijab isn’t a barrier between them as a person and me as a person, even though the hijab as an image is surrounded by loaded expectations. Beneath my hijab I am just a woman who has the same hopes and fears as any other woman or person.

What I took away from the event is how important conversations like these are, especially in the workplace and with your colleagues. A lot of the time people don’t feel like they can have these conversations during work time or they often don’t have the time, but these conversations are needed to create a better and more empathetic understanding of those around you. For me it’s important that colleagues can feel comfortable to ask me questions, even if it is a question such as, ‘Do you wear your head scarf in the shower?’ The importance of the ‘Living Library’ is that it creates the platform to do so and for these conversations to take place in a safe and respectful environment.

Zareena Mulla
Assistant Clinical Librarian
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust