In collaboration with Or Zubalsky
Online Collaborative Platform for Civil Disobedience
2013 - 2015
"I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me."
On September 16, 2013, the Randolph County Board of Education in Central North Carolina banned Ralph Ellison's book "The Invisible Man" after a student's mother complained about the adult content in the book. One board member supported her complaint, stating that he "didn't find any literary value" in Ellison's account of African-American alienation in the United States in the early 20th century. The ban remained for a mere nine days until it was lifted by the North Carolina School Board under much fire by the public.
Over sixty years after the book's publication date, even after winning the National Book Award for fiction in 1953 and being named by the Library of Congress as one of the "Books That Shaped America," this incident demonstrates the precarity that a work, even one that has been nationally recognized, faces in a cultural climate of a country that has not resolved its history of racial oppression. This issue is particularly timely now as structural violence against people of color has been gaining national attention after the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO and the homicide of Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY.
In the novel, the main character struggles to do good in the world, but is thwarted by structures instituted to maintain the status quo. He eventually aligns himself with the invisible, those who tip-toe precariously at the periphery of our society. We are asking participants to read out loud and record as much or as little of the book as they want in a show of solidarity with the invisible. The platform is readily customizable for any text facing censorship and is open source for others to use. While willfully violating copyright laws, the Invisible Library asks how works of literature might find new avenues for appreciation through digital media.
Through the voice, may we collectively enact a visibility.