The World’s Strongest Librarian

librarian

An inspiring story of how a Mormon kid with Tourette’s found salvation in books and weight-lifting.

Josh Hanagarne couldn’t be invisible if he tried. Although he wouldn’t officially be diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome until his freshman year of high school, Josh was six years old and onstage in a school Thanksgiving play when he first began exhibiting symptoms. By the time he was twenty, the young Mormon had reached his towering adult height of 6’7″ when — while serving on a mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints — his Tourette’s tics escalated to nightmarish levels.

Determined to conquer his affliction, Josh underwent everything from quack remedies to lethargy-inducing drug regimes to Botox injections that paralyzed his vocal cords and left him voiceless for three years. Undeterred, Josh persevered to marry and earn a degree in Library Science. At last, an eccentric, autistic strongman — and former Air Force Tech Sergeant and guard at an Iraqi prison — taught Josh how to “throttle” his tics into submission through strength-training.

Today, Josh is a librarian in the main branch of Salt Lake City’s public library and founder of a popular blog about books and weight lifting—and the proud father of four-year-old Max, who has already started to show his own symptoms of Tourette’s.

The World’s Strongest Librarian illuminates the mysteries of this little-understood disorder, as well as the very different worlds of strongman training and modern libraries. With humour and candour, this unlikely hero traces his journey to overcome his disability — and navigate his wavering Mormon faith — to find love and create a life worth living.

—                        —                         —

It’s funny, all the lines one could draw between my life and Joshs’, the parallel direction we both seem to have taken at some point. I randomly came across this book on Goodreads – it was recommended based on other things I had read – and the title and cover immediately drew me in. My interest was piqued.

The fact that Josh was a librarian, writing his memoir, was one of the original things that drew me to this book. While those professional experiences took a backseat in the book, it is hilarious how relate-able some of his interactions with customers were to me. Some of the conversations I swear I have had almost verbatim at my own library. I particularly loved the old woman who described her favourite genre to be “the nakedest of romances”. Well okay then.

I have worked in a library since I was sixteen years old, and still do. Librarians in my experience are rarely men, and even more rarely, men super into fitness or sports. So I checked out the audio book from my library’s streaming service and started listening. This is how I found out that Josh is Mormon. One questioning his faith by the end of the book, but a self-identified and fully baptized Elder none-the-less.

I am also Mormon. Unlike Josh, I wasn’t raised in the church, I didn’t go on a mission, and I don’t currently attend meetings. My faith is questionable at times, and I don’t feel a sense of urgency about it at the moment. Though I’m sure this would be hard to explain at the Pearly Gates if I was killed tomorrow, I know that I will get more serious about religion when I have children of my own. Right now it feels like I have time to be young, and in my precarious job field, you take the extra Sunday shifts while they’re offered, lest they dry up.

Unlike Josh, I don’t have Tourettes. THANK GOD. But one of my best friends does. I see her physical tics and slight vocal tics every time we hang out. They aren’t severe like the authors’ but I know she wishes she didn’t have them. They can be frustrating to deal with for her friends and family as well, but mostly I wish that she could have freedom from them for her own peace of mind. I know this friend was interested when I started taking about The World’s Strongest Librarian and his Tourettes. She had never thought to name hers the way Josh did, and told me that his description of his disorder was exactly how she had always felt and never been able to express in words.

I hope she chooses to listen to this book. I would highly recommend it for anyone with Tourette Syndrome or anyone looking to find out more about it.

* * * * *

xx

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