Bookmark for Freedom Pages
B.Arch. '26, Cornell AAP
Victoria Lee is a third-year Bachelor of Architecture student at Cornell AAP, also pursuing a minor in comparative literature. She is from Bay Area, California. Her interests lie in architectural journalism and forensics. Bookmark for Freedom Pages is her debut solo installation. She is concurrently working on a book with the same title, addressing the expanding climate of banned and challenged books in the U.S., alongside social and cultural initiatives combating censorship.
According to PEN America, 3,362 titles were banned from public school classrooms and libraries across the U.S. in the 2022-2023 school year alone (1). Book banning is becoming an increasingly widespread method of censorship in the U.S., with children’s books and young adult books being the primary targets. These book bans are continuing to spread quickly through coordinated campaigns by vocal groups and increasing pressure from state legislation.
A growing network of conservative groups are fueling the book ban surge, in the name of “protecting the innocence of our children” and “letting the parents decide…rather than having government schools indoctrinate our kids” (2). Most of the members of these groups are parents, and they are often heavily involved in their local and state politics. With their pressures, educational gag orders and intimidation bills are more and more frequently introduced in recent years. They attempt to restrict teachers and school curriculums from discussing certain topics, which often include race, gender, LGBTQIA+ identities, and American history. Some set out standards for evaluating and challenging book materials and curriculums, which significantly impact how K-12 students view the history of the United States and its social problems.
In response to the harsh book banning climate in recent years, Bookmark for Freedom Pages proposes a collapsible and transferrable mobile library structure that serves to travel across states to bring awareness to banned and challenged titles in the United States, and to advocate against censorship and for freedom of speech. Many of the anti-censorship causes remain in states that do not have severe book banning culture, therefore, the intent for this project is to travel beyond these states to put the issue in spotlight.
The mobile library boldly showcases titles that are commonly banned and challenged, each book highlighting a topic that has been heavily censored and/or unique situation that resulted in its ban. Selected books include Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe (LGBTQIA+), Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde (race), Something Happened in Our Town by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, Ann Hazzard (anti-police), Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman (antigovernment), 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene (specifically banned in prisons). The library’s compact size makes it manageable and convenient to travel to different locations—10 of them can fit into one U-Haul truck at the same time. The mobility of the library is an attempt to reach a large audience, especially to states are affected by the book banning legislation and may not have access to these book titles. Pages of the showcased banned books are “bookmarked”, to offer a glimpse of what banned content may look like—at first glance, a lot of books are ordinary text and images like any other nonbanned book. To better educate ourselves about the ongoing book banning climate in the U.S., the following are some helpful and reliable anti-censorship resources:
– PEN America: PEN America releases yearly data reports regarding book censorship, including banned/challenged booklists and indexes of educational gag orders and intimidation bills
– American Library Association: ALA releases yearly data reports regarding book censorship, including top 10 most banned/challenged booklists. You may also report challenged material here.
– National Coalition Against Censorship: NCAC records book censorship on a free-access comprehensive database, provides guides help educated students and parents about book censorship. You may also report challenged material here.
1 “Banned in the USA: The Mounting Pressure to Censor,” PEN America, <pen.org/report/book-bans-pressure-to-censor>
2 Keith Flaugh, founder of Florida Citizens Alliance