Blog Post

Censorship in Real Time: The Case of Chester Himes. A Video by Daniel Carlson

Chester Himes

What does it feel like to have your first novel brutally censored into unrecognizability?  That is what happened to Chester Himes with his powerful novel of prison life and male intimacy, Cast the First Stone.  Decades later, the novel was published posthumously with a foreword by Melvin van Peebles as Yesterday Will Make You Cry.   In this video, student, artist, musician, and videographer Daniel Carlson tells the story and shows us in real time what censorship looks like. 


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As Frances Tran notes:  "Witnessing the blacking out of Himes’s writing, accompanied by the chilling sounds of erasure and the over-writing of his work underscores the violence of this process, which one student described as the effective removal of the soul of the novel."


1 comment

What an amazing video--not only because of the hard work of making something look so simple--but because it makes palpabale the sight and sound of the editorial violence that truncated Himes' novel.  That violence changed literary history and made it impossible for readers to read and recognize Himes' gay love story, his prison protest novel, and a genre of writing we haven't seen before or since.