Maus is a graphic novel depicting the horrific Holocaust that took place between 1941 and 1945, written by Spiegelman. The American artist depicted the historic event through an illustrated interview with his Holocaust-survivor father, Vladek Spiegelman, recalling some of the heinous acts that took place. Maus is the only graphic novel to have ever won a Pulitzer Prize. Earlier this week, a Tennessee school board voted 10-0 to remove the text from an eighth-grade language arts curriculum around the USA.
Spiegelman has now broken his silence on the decision. He said: “I’m kind of baffled by this. It’s leaving me with my jaw open, like, ‘What?'”
The artist called the act of the school board “Orwellian” – referencing George Orwell’s novel on censorship 1984.
The board claimed the book was banned because of “profanity and nudity and its depiction of violence and suicide”. The writer said he “suspected” that the board’s members were “motivated less about some mild curse words and more by the subject of the book”.
The novel tells the story of Spiegelman’s Jewish parents in Nazi Germany and concentration camps.
The novel also includes details about the mass murder of Jewish people by the Nazis, as well as his mother’s suicide when he was 20-years-old.
Spiegelman continued: “I’ve met so many young people who … have learned things from my book.” He added: “I also understand that Tennessee is obviously demented. There’s something going on very, very haywire there.”
Spiegelman learned of the book’s band on Twitter – one day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day (Thursday, January 27, 2022).
Tennessee’s McMinn County Board of Education posted a statement on its website in response to the book’s banning. The board said the vote to remove “the graphic novel Maus from McMinn County Schools because of its unnecessary use of profanity and nudity and its depiction of violence and suicide. Taken as a whole the board felt this work was simply too adult-oriented for use in our schools.”
The board added they “do not diminish the value of Maus as an impactful and meaningful piece of literature, nor do we dispute the importance of teaching our children the historical and moral lessons and realities of the Holocaust”.
The board continued: “To the contrary we have asked our administrators to find other works that accomplish the same educational goals in a more age appropriate fashion. The atrocities of the Holocaust were shameful beyond description, and we all have an obligation to ensure that younger generations learn of its horrors to ensure such an event is never repeated.” (sic)
Maus depicts different groups of historic people as different species of animals. Jewish people are shown as mice, while Polish people are pigs. Nazi Germans, who banned and burned books, were drawn as cats.