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A Pulitzer-prize winning graphic novel about the Holocaust has been removed from the shelves of a Tennessee public school district. The McGinn County school board voted earlier this month to ban Maus, a seminal comic book about the horrors of the Holocaust.
The school board specifically prohibited eighth grade teachers from using Maus in their history curriculum. The objections stemmed from concerns about the depiction of Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust. Objections also stemmed from the book’s use of profane language and an image of a nude woman.
The school board’s vote to ban the book was unanimous.
Author reacts to book ban
The school’s actions shocked Maus author Art Spiegelman. He only learned about it through a tweet on the day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In an interview with CNBC, he said, “I’m kind of baffled by this.”
Mr. Spiegelman’s book, written in 1992, follows the story of his family’s experiences during the Holocaust. It includes both parents’ time in concentration camps, his mother’s suicide, and his strained relationship with his father. In response to the book ban, Mr. Spiegelman called the school board “Orwellian,” referring to the George Orwell book “1984.” In the book citizens are encouraged to ban books and track each other’s movements.
According to Mr. Spiegelman, “I’ve met so many young people who … have learned things from my book.” About the school board, he also confirmed, “There’s something very very haywire going on there.”
School Board defends book ban
In response to the outrage, the McGinn County school board posted to their website. They stated the board voted to remove “the graphic novel Maus from McMinn County Schools because of its unnecessary use of profanity and nudity, along with its depiction of violence and suicide. Taken as a whole the board felt this work was simply too adult-oriented for use in our schools.”
The backlash against the ban has been swift and loud. Author Neil Gaiman tweeted, “There’s only one kind of people who would vote to ban Maus, whatever they are calling themselves these days.”
Additionally, assistant principal Julie Goodin spoke out against the ban.
“I can talk of the history, I was a history teacher and there is nothing pretty about the Holocaust and for me this was a great way to depict a horrific time in history,” Goodin said.
Book bans taking place across the country
Others were not so concerned about banning Maus. One board member, Tony Allman, noted, “Being in the schools, educators and stuff we don’t need to enable or somewhat promote this stuff. It shows people hanging, it shows them killing kids, why does the educational system promote this kind of stuff, it is not wise or healthy.”
During the Holocaust, 6 million Jews and others who were considered “different” were brutally and systematically killed. One teacher noted that the children reading Maus were unlikely to ever encounter a Holocaust survivor. Most of them have passed away by now.
Meanwhile, McGinn County is not the only school to ban books. One school district in Texas is cataloging books about race following a parent’s outrage, while one teacher was punished for providing copies of This Book is Antiracist.