The Tennessee county school board decided to ban the Pulitizer-winning graphic novel Mas (opens in new tab). According to the minutes, the McMinn County School Board voted to remove Art Spiegelman’s Holocaust memoir from its eighth grade English class. This was in response to the stated intent to find a substitute book.
A January 27 statement The McMinn County Board was clear that it decided to eliminate the book entirely from its school system because the work was “too adult-oriented to be used in our schools.”
In late 2021, Maus was included in McMinn County’s eighth grade English Language Arts class curriculum.
According to minutes from the January 10 meeting, Mike Cochran, a school board member, said that “So, this idea we have to have such material in the class to teach history,”. “It is important material. I have read and reread it. The parts that talk about his father, who was a Holocaust survivor, were very interesting to me. Other parts were totally unnecessary.
Cochran mentions “the naked photos,” attempted suicides, and “cussing.”
“You have all that stuff in here. Again, I read this to myself. It was a decent book up until the end. Cochran said that the ending was too stupid to be honest. “A lot of the cussing was due to the son cussing his father out, so I don’t know how that teaches our children any ethical stuff.” He treated his father as a victim, rather than treating him with respect.
After much discussion on redacting parts of Maus and asking permission from the author, McMinn County’s school board voted 10-to-1 to ban the entire book from its schools.
Reuters (opens in new tab) states that the McMinn County school Board’s decision overruled a Tennessee state-level curriculum evaluation that had approved Maus teaching.
Maus is a memoir that Spiegelman wrote about his father and deals with Spiegelman’s memories as a Holocaust survivor during World War II. To give a different perspective on the horrific events and the personal toll they caused, the book anamorphizes Holocaust victims into mice (“Maus” is German for mouse).
Maus, originally serialized in Raw 1980-91, was first collected in 1986. It became one of the most important comics industry works. In 1992, the Pulitzer Prize was awarded to the book. It has been ranked among the top 10 comics ever published by various publications such as Entertainment Weekly and Time.
Spiegelman spoke on CNN January 27th, and stated that banning books on fascism like Maus “has both the breath of autocracy as well as fascism.”
“I am still trying to figure this out… I see it as a harbinger for things to come.”
Jeff Trexler, interim director of Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (opens in new tab), stated that this decision “illustrates the importance for students to be capable of learning analytical thinking through the interplay of graphic novels.”
Trexler stated that 21st century literacy requires the ability to comprehend the fusion between word and image. “But if we don’t understand how the interplay between word and image works, then we can make decisions that are contrary to our core civic values. This is exactly what this school did.”