Josh Hanagarne started experiencing symptoms of Tourette Syndrome — blinking and facial tics — when he was 6 years old.
By the time he was a teenager playing basketball in a Utah high school, the disorder had accelerated to include involuntary muscle spasms, grunts and shouts. (Fans of opposing teams took advantage of the situation, willing him to choke at the free throw line by chanting, “Tic! Tic! Tic!”)
Hanagarne tells the story of growing up with the disorder in “The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength and the Power of Family.” The tale is punctuated with painful scenes such as the one on the basketball court, told with antic humor, unselfconscious candor and a humble, deep love for the family that held him up.
Hanagarne, now 35, will discuss his work and sign copies of his book at the Decatur branch of the DeKalb Public Library on Thursday.
The setting is a comfortable one for Hanagarne, who is a librarian at the Salt Lake City Public Library. One might think that a man prone to sudden shouts and grunts would be ill at ease in a quiet reading room, but he writes that in the library he finds the quiet otherwise missing from his life.
Hanagarne’s book is, in fact, a love letter to libraries and reading. He inhaled books as a child and he describes with wry amusement the impact that “Charlotte’s Web” had on his reading, and how his romantic involvement with the female protagonist served as a turning point in a life that would be charted as “Before Fern and After Fern.”
His successful pursuit of a degree in library science, his marriage to the real-life Janette and the birth of their son Max, his ability to harness and control his own body through the discipline of kettle bells, weight-lifting and strongman training all serve as a triumphant counterpoint to the challenges of Tourette’s.
Hanagarne spoke recently about how the resounding success of the book has a downside and about the mysterious Adam Glass, the autistic former Air Force technical sergeant, who introduced Hanagarne to such strongman feats as rolling up a frying pan like a burrito and who taught Hanagarne techniques of strength and breath control that allowed him to, miraculously, live free of Tourette’s for a year.
Q: What does Glass think of the book?
A: Adam would tell you that he’s proud of me, but he doesn’t really get excited about things. He would tell you he doesn’t really have emotions.
Q: Do you expect he’ll have more requests to become a guru of strength training for others?
A: Nothing would make me happier as an outcome than being the one that got to deliver Adam to the world. When they see what he can do with people’s pain and their movement … That would be the greatest service I think I can offer to humanity.
Q: After you conquered Tourette’s, it came back again. Why?
A: “Why?” is never the right question. … We found something that worked for a while. I had it for 33 years versus one year I had complete relief. Now I’ve got to figure out what works now.
Q: How are your symptoms?
A: I am far worse than I have ever been. My brain doesn’t seem to know the difference between good stress and bad stress. Every time the stage gets bigger (with the success of the book), there’s a definite cost.
Q: You write about moving away from the Mormon faith. How does your family feel about that?
A: They are picturing an afterlife without me. Not that I would be in hell, but I’d be without them.
Q: What about your mother?
A: It breaks her heart. We don’t really talk about it. There’s honestly not a whole lot of point in talking about it. The way her faith works, she figures I’ll come around sooner or later. We don’t need to let the big picture destroy the small picture.
Josh Hanagarne will discuss and sign copies of his new book, “The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength and the Power of Family,” at the Decatur branch of the DeKalb Public Library at 7:15 p.m. on Thursday. Free. A portion of proceeds from book sales will go to benefit the Georgia Center for the Book. 215 Sycamore St., Decatur. Information, contact A Cappella Books, 404-578-0412, www.acappellabooks.com/event/josh-hanagarne-book-signing