Maus, the deeply evocative graphic novel about the Holocaust, was banned in a Tennessee school district for being ‘inappropriate.’
The McMinn County School Board has been reviewing the literature in their curriculum and libraries for what is appropriate and what is not. Maus, which is about the true experiences of the author’s Jewish parents in 1940s Poland, was formerly part of the district’s eighth grade curriculum.
“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,” School Board Member Tony Allman said about the book. Allman has not said how he thinks the Holocaust should be taught without mentioning these facts.
The official minutes record the decision as being due to the eight curse words and one scene of nongraphic cartoon nudity as being the cause of the removal. Not even human nudity – in Maus, Jews are drawn as mice and Nazis as cats. The nude woman – who represents the author’s mother and has just committed suicide in the narrative – is depicted as a mouse.
Art Spiegelman, the Jewish, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Maus and Maus II, has had a lot to say about the banning.
“It’s leaving me with my jaw open, like, ‘What?’” he said, calling the decision baffling and “Orwellian.” He also points out that the decision puts the schoolboard in bad company – Vladimir Putin made sales of Maus in Russia illegal in 2015, allegedly over the fact that it displays swastikas.
As news of the banning spread across social media, sales of the book surged in backlash. As of this writing, Amazon is sold out of all physical editions, with no restock date advertised. Individuals and business owners across the country have offered to donate a copy of Maus to each and every student in the McMinn County area, and to libraries and schools all over as well.