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The new wave of book banning: Poverty and class

The new wave of book banning: Poverty and class

Some folks don’t want kids reading reality-based portrayals of poverty and class:

More worrying, however, is the recent rise in efforts to get books banned that cover poverty and social class. At a time when rising inequality and the demonisation of poorer people (both in the UK and the US) is commonplace, such attempts to remove books that depict the reality of life for people who are struggling should concern us all.

Numerous studies have shown that reading about people, issues or circumstances unfamiliar to us can engender empathy – in times of acute social and economic divisions this becomes all the more important. It is not just wealth that separates rich and poor, but ignorance and the absence of social contact.

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of ALA [American Library Association], says: “We have seen challenges to books where the content [probes] conceived wisdom on issues like poverty and class or offers an alternative political viewpoint on a situation.” Authors such as Toni Morrison are continually targeted, she points out, because they are “writing about concerns related to race and class … often unflinchingly portraying what African Americans have suffered in [the US].” Most books challenged are fiction but increasingly non-fiction works “that address diverse topics … or raise issues of class and the economic environment,” are also being contested she says.

Poor_mother_and_children%2C_Oklahoma%2C_1936_by_Dorothea_Lange.jpgA frequent complaint, according to Joan Bertin, executive director of the NCAC [National Coalition Against Censorship], is of books being “anti-capitalist”. She says this is conflated by some sectors of society as somehow undermining American or Christian values. Among the most high-profile books challenged lately was bestselling author David K Shipler’s The Working Poor: Invisible in America, targeted by a group of parents in Texas during Banned Books Week, and Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickle and Dimed: On (not) Getting by in America, which explores the challenges of low income and refutes the myths around poverty and supposed fecklessness. One of the many objections levelled at Ehreneich’s book was in 2011 when a parent argued that it promoted “economic fallacies and socialist ideas”.

Read it all in The Guardian.

63 percent of Americans believe blacks who can’t get ahead are mostly responsible for their own condition.


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