The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family
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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 humor and candor, 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.
City Library Josh Manager I only use this tag when I forget my usual badge. “Is not even you? Pyeh!” “Yeah it’s me. Manager’s crossed out, not Josh.” “You send that e-mail. You send now.” I send the e-mail. It says: Computer Services, I told someone I would send you this e-mail. I know it’s not your department. I asked her to contact AV first. But she insisted that you see the e-mail. Good luck. Josh. “Sent!” I say. “Americans…” She looks around. I see how long and thick her
room. It was like someone had detonated a bomb of distilled joy on the students. I have never seen such unrestrained happiness. Everyone was screaming and laughing and trying to get close enough to hug the bear. As usually happens in noisy places, my tics were intense. I shouted and jerked, but nobody noticed! Or if they did, it just didn’t matter. There were so many symptoms and conditions in that place that nobody would ever look in my direction twice no matter what Misty compelled me to do.
eyes if he hadn’t been so close, glaring. After some reps, he had me wiggle my jaw, open my mouth as wide as I could, and walk around on the balls of my feet for thirty seconds. What did this have to do with my injured shoulder? Adam pointed to the ninety-seven-pound kettlebell. “Now press it.” When I stalled, he said, “Go do it. Quit thinking. You won’t die, I promise.” I walked over to the kettlebell, grasped it in my right hand, cleaned it to my chest, and pressed it with less effort than
later, Adam said, “I want chicken wings.” We passed a young woman walking on the side of the road. Her hair was blond, with black roots. “What is she, a bumblebee?” he said. “I’ll tell you what you just saw, Josh. A lack of personal excellence. You know who could use a good old-fashioned public shaming? Just about everyone, including you and me sometimes. Ponder that.” We talked about Tourette’s over lunch. “Honestly, I don’t know how you do it,” he said. “Having control of my body is one of the
on her shoulder. “Today was awful,” I said. “What happened?” “Tics.” “Mommy, look!” She waved at Max. “I see you! There’s a lot going on. It’s not that surprising, is it?” “Probably not. But I really thought I was done with this. Maybe it’ll just be today.” “Anything I can do?” “No. Believe me, I’d ask. Hey! Max, no!” He’d seen a moth in the early evening and was chasing it as the kite sailed away on the wind. One day when I was four years old, I went outside to play with friends who