Yes, the book The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David Shipler is “Obscene” – Let’s Just Hide from It, Shall We?

offensive or disgusting by accepted standards of morality and decency.
offensive to moral principles; repugnant.

News item: Highland Park ISD suspends seven books after parents protest their content (including The Working Poor, from classroom use. Sounds like “bans” to me).


the-working-poorHere are a couple of excepts taken directly from The Working Poor:

Most of the people I write about in this book do not have the luxury of rage. They are caught in exhausting struggles. Their wages do not lift them far enough from poverty to improve their lives, and their lives, in turn hold them back. The term by which they are usually described, “working poor,” should be an oxymoron. Nobody who works hard should be poor in America.
Poverty is like a bleeding wound. It weakens the defenses; lowers resistance; attracts predators.
Workers at the edge of poverty are essential to America’s prosperity, but their well-being is not treated as and integral part of the whole. Instead, the forgotten wage a daily struggle to keep themselves from falling over the cliff. It is time to be ashamed.
David Shipler, The Working Poor (Invisible in America)

Here’s a comment from one Highland Park ISD mother who helped lead the effort to remove the books from the classroom (quoted in the article):

“The problem is having obscene literature mandatory in the classroom and for discussion.”

I have to agree. The book The Working Poor: Invisible in America is obscene — “disgusting; offensive to moral principles; repugnant.”

It is obscene how we fail to help the working poor in this country. It is repugnant that the richest country in the world has such high levels of poverty. High levels of poverty even among those who work every day.

I understand why we would want to “suspend” such a book. We would rather not face up to such a reality.


In case you did not know, David Shipler, the author of The Working Poor, is a Pulitzer Prize winning author. And this book is still a best-seller (it was published a decade ago). I have read, and presented synopses of dozens of books dealing with issues of poverty, race, and social justice, all for the Urban Engagement Book Club sponsored by CitySquare.  Yes, The Working Poor is one that I have read and presented. This book is at the top of the list of books to read to help you understand poverty. From the book:

if there are many reasons for poverty, there must be “interlocking solutions” to deal with the complexity of the causes.

I understand the impulse to protect our children. Though I disagree with book banning, I at least understand why some people want to ban some books, in an attempt to “protect their children.” (Though, I’m not sure it works. Our children are pretty exposed to just about everything).

But to exclude this book… it is simply beyond me.


Larry James, CEO of CitySquare, also wrote a blog post about this.  David Shipler, the author, spoke at the CitySquare prayer breakfast a few years ago.  Read his post: Banning Books in Hihgland Park.


One thought on “Yes, the book The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David Shipler is “Obscene” – Let’s Just Hide from It, Shall We?

  1. I have not read the book, but I cannot for the life of me figure out what in this book (from the synopsis) would be a problem for students to read! And at Highland Park–it sounds like a parable waiting to be created by Søren Kierkegaard!

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