A schoolboard in Tennessee has decided to ban the usage Art Spiegelman’s award winning graphic novel Maus while teaching about the Holocaust. Maus is of course, a graphic novel based on the true experiences of Art Spiegelman’s family as told by his father.
The McMinn County School Board voted 10-0 to ban the book in a Jan. 10 meeting, citing concerns over “rough” language and a nude drawing of a woman, according to meeting minutes posted to the district website. The book was part of its eighth-grade English language arts curriculum.
Maus was serialized in 1986 – 1991, and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992 (the special award in letter), and is so far the only graphic novel to have won any Pulitzer prize. When arguing whether graphic novels can be literature, Maus is held up as the number one exhibit in favor.
When I was a Danish school kid, back in the Eighties, we would be told stories about the holocaust and the German occupation by people who experienced it. This was incredible impactful. As the people who experienced the Holocaust are dying out, works like Maus becomes more and more important. They tell the stories that otherwise would be lost, allowing us to remember the atrocities, and pushes us to ensure that they never happen again. The US Holocaust Museum states it well:
As news spread about the school board’s decision, the U.S. Holocaust Museum said, “Maus has played a vital role in educating students about the Holocaust through sharing detailed and personal experiences of victims and survivors.”
“On the eve of International #HolocaustRemembranceDay, it is more important than ever for students to learn this history,” the museum said Wednesday on Twitter without mentioning the district. “Teaching about the Holocaust using books like Maus can inspire students to think critically about the past and their own roles and responsibilities today.”
Of course, the ban on Maus is just part of a larger culture war, as Art Spiegelman himself points out:
While it’s not the first time “Maus” has been the subject of controversy, Spiegelman said he is alarmed by school boards nationwide banning books amid tense debates over the teaching of race, slavery and oppression.
“This is not about left versus right,” Spiegelman told The Tennessean, part of the USA TODAY Network. “This is about a culture war that’s gotten totally out of control.”
When start to ban books, especially books like Maus, the rest of us should take note, and speak out. This is the first step towards a very dark path.