Books On Trial is a collection of infographics that presents the history of book censorship. The censorship of books began with the Bible and continues to this day in our schools and libraries. While the banning of books in the United States has generally been over for quite some time, censorship continues in different forms today. For example, before he died in 2010, JD Salinger tried to “censor” a sequel to his book written by someone else. Not only does the banning of books continue but so does a related activity, the burning of books. The goal of Books On Trial is to raise awareness about the continuing history of book censorship in the United States. While most Americans know that some books are banned and some have heard of ALA’s Banned Books Week, not many people are familiar with why the books are banned or with the history behind censorship. This project presents a clear, condensed overview of the long and continuing history of censorship. By using a combination of images and color-coding, the infographics present a vast amount of information on censorship in an easily digestible way. These infographics can help viewers to better understand how and why books have been censored in the United States.
Book banning became widespread in the late 18th century, continuing into the early 19th century until writers began to fight back with the explosion of the modernist movement. Modernist writers broke the boundaries of what acceptable literature was and wrote about topics that were once considered taboo. Those included thoughts about the first World War, the development of industrial societies, the rejection of religion, and the breaking of social traditions. Famous writers who emerged during this movement included Theodore Dreiser, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Despite their role in revolutionizing modern literature, many of their works were banned. Theodore Dreiser’s book Sister Carrie, published in 1900, reflected views of naturalism during a period of urbanization. However, the book was banned in 1916 for its immorality. In 1929, Hemingway published A Farewell to Arms, which depicted a gruesome account of WWI. That book was banned in the year of its publication for crude matter.
According to Laura Juraska, Associate College Librarian for Research Services at Bates College in Maine, books are banned for different reasons in different locations. “In the United States, it’s much more about sex and religion, and in other countries, it has more to do with politics,” Juraska says, adding that “it’s an interesting difference of what tends to get banned where. It tells you something about the culture that we live in.” However, according to the ALA, for every book that is challenged, there are advocates fighting to get others reinstated.
Many countries throughout the world have their own methods of restricting access to books, although the prohibitions vary from one country to another. Hate speech, for example, is prohibited in a number of countries, such as Sweden, though the same books may be legal in The United Kingdom, where the only prohibition is on child pornography.
The American public— including parents, library users, and religious groups—can object to books that they think are unsuitable, particularly for young people, and ask for them to be removed or restricted. Back in 1982, so many books were being challenged in the US that a number of organizations came together to start Banned Books Week, both to highlight the fact that literature was being banned and to celebrate the freedom to read.
Mary Kathryn Jardine is a graphic designer that believes in good design. She currently works for the online charity Whimsical Woodsman. It has been quite the ride, as when she started there it was just taking off, and she has never left. It has left her in an interesting position in which she now has a lot of experience with online client communication. Jardine has a degree in Graphic Design and Liberal Arts.