Monday, September 26, 2011
It's banned books week again.
This year one of the "top ten" books being challenged, according to the American Library Association, is Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich, with the reasons given as "drugs, inaccurate, offensive language, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint."
Ehrenreich's more recent book, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, caused a bit of a stir as we discussed here, but the decade old Nickel and Dimed has recently become more controversial. The objections seem to be to Ehrenreich's unpopular view of capitalism. Ehrenreich's "update" on her book argues that things have gotten worse.
Banning Sherman Alexie's National Book Award winning novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, on the list again this year, is understandable in the context of the history of banning books for sexual language. A bit less understandable, but still within some interpretations of the sexual, is the number one book on this year's list yet again, And Tango Makes Three, a children's book based on the true story of two penguins in the Central Park Zoo who come together to raise a chick. The problem, presumably, is that the penguins are both male.
Yet the banning of Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed seems exceedingly problematical under the First Amendment. While "obscenity" has a special (and devalued) position within First Amendment doctrine, first-person reporting that casts capitalism in an unfavorable light would seem to be the type of political speech that Americans most highly valued, in doctrine as well as practice.