United States: a school decides to ban “Maus”, the Pulitzer Prize for Art Spiegelman on the Holocaust

A school in Tennessee has banned an award-winning Holocaust graphic novel from its classrooms. In question: several swear words and illustrations of naked mice, cartoon style.

It’s a ‘crazy’ move for graphic novel author Art Spiegelman Maus: A survivor tells, and son of Auschwitz survivors.

The author, who chose to illustrate how his own parents survived the Holocaust through figures of mice and cats, was erased from the curricula of a school in McMinn County in Tennessee.

“Crude and objectionable” language

In question, according to the minutes drawn up by the board of directors: the use of the insult “god damn” (“damn God”) on several occasions and the drawings of naked animals, deemed indecent.

“There is foul and objectionable language in this book,” school principal Lee Parkison said in support of a unanimous vote decision.

Lee Parkison went on to explain that he “consulted with a lawyer”: “We decided that the best way to handle this problem was to rewrite the book… to get rid of the eight swear words and drawings that objectify women. It was not possible.”

Tony Allman, member of the board of directors, supported this decision. If he said he was aware of the importance of the duty of memory, he disputed the violence of the remarks.

“It shows people being hanged, scenes of child murders. Why does the education system promote this stuff? It is neither wise nor healthy,” he said.

“Normalize sexuality”

The graphic novel was however awarded numerous literary prizes in 1992, including the Pulitzer. But it would deliver certain messages that it would be undesirable to instil in the children according to Mike Cochran, another member of the council.

“We don’t need this kind of books to teach history to children,” he noted. “We don’t need all this nudity and vulgarity.”

He thus proposes to review the entire program, concerned by the presence of works which tend to “normalize sexuality, normalize nudity and normalize vulgar language”: “If I was trying to indoctrinate children, this is how I would go about it. Children absorb what is shown to them.

Rise of conservatism

Art Spiegelman declared himself, in an interview with CNBC this Wednesday, January 26, “disconcerted” by this decision. “It leaves me speechless,” said the 73-year-old author.

His parents were both sent to Auschwitz concentration camp. Traumatized, his mother committed suicide when he was only 20 years old.

“I met so many young people who learned things from my book,” said the writer. “Tennessee is obviously going mad. There is something totally out of whack going on there.”

The decision comes at a time when conservative groups across the country are campaigning to ban certain books from school libraries.

This particularly targets those who address the subject of ethnic origins, the LGBTQ+ cause or marginalized communities.

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United States: a school decides to ban “Maus”, the Pulitzer Prize for Art Spiegelman on the Holocaust