Last month, Maus, the first and only graphic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize, authored by cartoonist Art Spiegelman, was removed from a school’s curriculum by the McMinn County (Tennessee) School Board. To add insult to injury, this book ban occurred as the world was preparing to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
While the Board claimed they didn’t “object” to the teaching of the Holocaust, but the book had nudity, violence and the depiction of suicide that made it “too adult-oriented” for use in the schools.
Imagine, teaching about the world’s most horrific genocide, but leave out the violence, the nudity, the ugliness.
Maus is a graphic way of imaging the Holocaust, an event that is commonly describes as unimaginable. In comic form, the book casts its protagonists as animals: mice (Jews), cats (Germans), pigs (Poles), dogs (Americans), frogs (French) and Bees (Gypsies) depicting the horrors perpetrated by real people against millions of other real people. It is the story of the author’s father, Vladek Spiegelman, his experiences and his tortured relationship with his son, who is both a character in the book and its narrator.
Students come away from reading this book, which some call amongst the most simple of complexities, with large and often intricate questions about survival, suffering, and the moral choices that people make.
It seems like Book Banning has become all the rage with local boards of education and state representatives making lists of books that they want excluded from curriculums. It’s nothing new, but somehow, it seems to be gaining popularity in our current political and social climates.
How does one teach complex stories of inhumanity with whitewashed Disneyesque literature? Books like Maus are perfect examples of what literature is supposed to do.
And we see the call for banning books that depict slavery, incest, sexual abuse and assault, racism, and LGBTQ lifestyles, among others. The motivation is often for religious or political reasons because an idea, a scene, or a character in a book offends someone’s religion, sense of morality, or political view.
It’s not often that one gets the opportunity to directly hear from someone who’s book has been banned, but that is exactly the case when our friends at the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga host author Art Spiegelman on line on Monday night, February 7th at 7pm. He will be speaking about "Maus and the Importance of Student-Centered Dialogue About the Holocaust."
Please join to hear Mr. Spiegelman as we continue the fight to assure that we Never Forget.