Human Book Festival



For one afternoon, on Sunday, February 25, 2018, books will come alive at the Nashua Public Library Human Book Festival.

The “books” at this festival are people with stories to tell, about interesting jobs or travels; causes they have championed; experiences of prejudice due to their religion, disability, or other identity; and more. At the event, participants can “check them out” for one-on-one, 15-minute conversations in the library.

All the human books participating in the festival live in the Nashua area and have a unique story to tell. Here’s a preview:

When a Man Cannot Call His
Birth Country “Home”

Ro Mohammed Mustak Arif

Mohammad Mustak Arif

Computer Training Room

Ro Mohammad Mustak Arif is Rohingya, born in Myanmar (formerly Burma), a coun­try that denies his people documents required to move, go to school, work, marry, or receive health care. In 1996, after two months of detention, interroga­­tions, and beatings, he escaped to Malay­sia. While there he met his wife and had a son, but both were denied an education. In 2013 they resettled in the US, and for the first time in his life, he had a country. Since then he has been volunteering to give back to the com­munity—and recently opened an ethnic grocery store on Pine Street Extension in Nashua.


Shooting Close-Ups of the Moon

Lionel Arlan

Small Meeting Room 2

Two thirds of the people alive today were born after men first walked on the moon in 1969. But not Lionel Arlan. He knew he wanted to become an electrical engineer at an early age, and earned his master’s in the field in 1961. The height of his career came in his work on the Ranger missions, as project engineer for the design and development of special TV cameras that captured the first close-up pictures of the lunar surface. This achievement paved the way for selection of a landing site for the Apollo astronauts.


Serving in the Community

Carlos Camacho


Carlos Camacho is an avid soccer fan, a family man, president of the Pelham Lions Club, US Coast Guard veteran and a police officer. He enjoys serving on the Nashua Racial and Ethnic Disparities Committee (Nashua RED), which comes up with ways to keep Nashua youth out of the justice system; and Nashua Community Con­versa­tion on Race and Justice, which improves communication between the minority community and the police. Carlos started his career in law enforce­ment in his native Houston, Texas, and in 2001 joined the Nashua Police Department, where he has worked his way up to Lieutenant.

Emotionally Unique

Nikki Casey

Medium Meeting Room

Nikki struggled with eating disorders, mental illness, and substance abuse issues starting as a teenager. Traveling down the long and painful road of addiction to recovery, Nikki found her path and purpose, through trial and tribulation, treatment programs, and sober living. Now as director of a recovery center, she has the honor of helping people discover their own unique journeys to wellness and recovery.



Growing Up Gay: It Gets Better

Danny Champion

Outreach Office

From a young age Danny Champion knew that he liked boys, and never thought anything of it until he moved from Germany to the US  at age 12. Here, he was bullied daily to the point of tears by students—and teachers. He’d always been outgoing, but the bullying became so torturous that the light in his heart began to dim. As a teenager, he overcame the torment and realized there is nothing wrong with being gay. These events shaped Danny into the man he is today: compassionate, caring, loving, and driven.


A Grownup Plays Dress-Up

Rachael Dougherty

Small Meeting Room 1

Rachael Dougherty’s thing is cosplay—transforming herself into a character with homemade costumes, makeup, and props. If she’s not at her day job, or moonlighting at the company she started with her mom (, you can probably find her at a fan convention somewhere in New England, and quite possibly on an awards podium while there. Find out what the geeky life of cosplay is all about, how she got into it, and how it impacts her daily life.



I Have a Story About That:
Memories from an Interesting Life

Ken Harvey

Computer Training Room

Ken Harvey has traveled to 47 states, 39 countries, and 6 continents (Australia is on his bucket list). Since age 19, when his journeys began on a Norwegian freighter, he has ridden a motor­cycle to Wyoming, traveled to the southernmost and northernmost towns in the world, solo climbed Mt. Whitney, and summited the 48 4,000-footers of New Hampshire—in winter. In between he served as a special agent in military intelligence, created award-winning photography, and completed two humanitarian missions to earthquake-ravaged Nepal.


Fighting Fracking From the Ground Up

Helen Holden Slottje

Conference Room

If you’ve ever wondered how much one person can do to save the planet, you’ll want to hear attorney Helen Holden Slottje’s story. Living in Ithaca, New York, she and her husband took on the fracking industry, which insisted that New York communities could not prohibit the fracturing of the shale bedrock under­ their homes. Helen developed a legal strategy that allowed scores of New York municipalities to enact protective laws, even after the industry brought in the best legal minds that money could buy to fight them. Her work led to a statewide ban on fracking and, for her, international acclaim, including the 2014 Goldman Environmental Prize for North America. Helen recently returned to her hometown of Amherst, NH.

Navigating Life’s Unpredictable Journeys

Mary Johnson

Large Meeting Room

As a teenager, Mary Johnson felt called to join Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, aiding the poorest of the poor. Since then, her life has taken a series of sharp turns. After 20 years, she left the convent, adjusted to life in the secular world, married, became a writer, helped found a national nonprofit community for women writers, and published an acclaimed memoir. When the writers’ community she loved faced a crisis, she let loose after 15 years. Most recently, as a Humanist Celebrant she has been recognized as New Hampshire’s top wedding officiant. Talk to Mary for insight into the process of personal and professional transformation.


Disability as Opportunity

Janine Leffler

Large Meeting Room

Thirty-two-year-old Janine Leffler has cerebral palsy and cortical visual impairment. Yet she sees those disabilities not as limitations but as opportunities to inspire others. Despite her challenges, and the skepticism of her teachers and guidance counselor, she earned a bachelor’s degree in communi­cation and performs in community theater. She is also the subject of two children’s books, written by her mother, Marianne Cocca-Leffler.


Reaching His Peak Potential

Randy Pierce

Activity Room

As a young man, Randy Pierce suddenly found himself totally blind. What to others might be a setback was for him the inspiration for the success story that is his life. With his dog guides at his side, Randy chose to climb the highest peaks and run the longest races, leading to National Championships, Emmy Awards, and the founding of a company. Come hear his tale of teamwork and achievement.


From Guatemalan to US Citizen

Luis Porres

Activity Room

When you meet Luis Porres you’ll hear a story of how one man journeyed from Guatemala to the US without documents, made a living in construction and odd jobs, raised a family, and ended up as an outreach worker for the City of Nashua—and also an American citizen.



46 Tumultuous Years in the Local Newspaper Business

Dean Shalhoup


Dean Shalhoup followed in his father’s footsteps by entering a growing, respected, and vital business—newspapers—when he joined the staff of the Telegraph in 1972. While still at it today as a reporter and local history columnist, he’s got a lot to say about the turmoil he’s weathered, the people he’s met, and the local events he’s witnessed during 46 transformative years in the industry.

From Teenage Mom To
Community Activist

Cecilia Ulibarri

Cecilia Ulibarri


Although Cecilia Ulibarri gave birth to her first son when she was a senior in high school, she was determined to continue with her education, and graduated with her class. But because she was in a difficult relationship, at that time her dream of college was not in the cards. Find out how she beat the odds, left the relationship, raised two boys on her own, and went on to build a successful career and become one of Nashua’s leading civic activists.


The Box in My Backyard:
How I Became a Suburban Farmer

Sarah Ward

Reference Hallway

After working in marketing for over a decade, Sarah Ward was looking to start a family-friendly home business. Out of her search, Oasis Spring Farms was born. She and her husband grow hydroponic lettuce, greens and herbs year-round—in a recycled shipping container discreetly tucked away in their suburban backyard. Find out how Sarah converted her passion for cooking and eating local food into a high-tech, earth-friendly farm.




  • Each conversation is 15 minutes long.
  • Conversations are limited to one person per book at a time. However, a child or person with disabilities may be accompanied by a parent or caregiver, and a non-English speaker may be accompanied by an interpreter.
  • You may ask the books whatever you want; they can choose whether they wish to answer.
  • When you hear the piano play, your time slot is over. Please end your conversation on time.
  • A five-minute break is scheduled between each conversation.
  • Join us in the NPL Theater at 4 pm for refreshments and a group discussion on what we learned at the event.
  • A list of suggested questions for each human book will be available in each room if you wish to use it.



Sunday, February 25, 2018

1 pm-2 pm
Reserve human books to “check out”
Image Gallery

2 pm-4 pm
15-minute conversations with human books
Chandler Wing Meeting Rooms and Theater

4 pm-4:30 pm
Refreshments and discussion of what we learned


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