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Why was 'Maus' banned? Tennessee school board removes Holocaust graphic novel, leaves author Art Spiegelman baffled

Art Spiegelman's Maus (Image via Pantheon Books, and ArtSpiegelman/Facebook)
Art Spiegelman's Maus (Image via Pantheon Books, and ArtSpiegelman/Facebook)

On January 10, Tennessee’s McMinn County School Board unanimously voted to remove Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel on holocaust, Maus, from the syllabus. The ban has garnered nationwide media attention in the US since Wednesday.

The vote from the school board annulled the state’s approval for the graphic novel to be taught to eighth-grade students as part of their English Language Arts curriculum. As per the minutes of the meeting uploaded online by the board, there had been some objections to the curse words and n*udity in the book.

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McMinn County School Board’s minutes also revealed that they had discussed redacting the words or censoring the mouse-based depiction of the woman in the novel with Spiegelman's permission. But because that process would require a lot of time, the board ultimately decided to remove the book from the syllabus’ module entirely.


Tennessee McMinn County School Board deemed the content of the graphic novel inappropriate

Official Statement from the McMinn County School Board: https://t.co/eNKJlhLOrm

Art Spiegelman’s Maus has eight cuss words and a bare-bodied depiction of a woman in her bathtub where she committed suicide. During their meeting, board member Rob Shamblin mentioned:

“We are here because some people objected to the words and the graphics used in the book.”

The Pulitzer-winning graphic novel depicted the experiences of Spiegelman’s father during the holocaust. Furthermore, the bare-bodied woman in question was the author’s mother, a holocaust survivor who slit her wrists in a bathtub in 1968.

In the meeting, board member Julie Goodin sided with Spiegelman’s depiction of holocaust. She said:

“Are the words objectionable? Yes, there is no one that thinks they aren’t but by taking away the first part, it’s not changing the meaning of what he is trying to portray and copyright.”
The meeting minutes are here: core-docs.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/asse…As far as I can tell, somehow the biggest problem in the book "Maus" is that the words "damn" and "bitch" are used and that there is... mouse nudity? https://t.co/pNHuCdDHyZ

After the decision by the board made headlines, a statement was released by them which included further clarification. The McMinn County School Board stated that they found the profanity and n*dity in Maus, “too adult-oriented” for their eight-standard students.

The statement said:

“do not diminish the value of Maus as an impactful and meaningful piece of literature.”

They also added that the board does not dispute including holocaust in their curriculum and would find an alternative book for the module which would stress upon the historical importance of the event. Meanwhile, Spiegelman told CNBC:

“It’s leaving me with my jaw open, like, ‘What?”
More people will read MAUS which is a brilliant graphic novel. The best way to make sure kids really want to read and see art is for terrified adults to ban it.

The 73-year-old cartoonist and author said he was baffled by the development. Since the news went viral online, numerous people objected to the school board’s decision. In his interview with CNBC, Spiegelman even referred to the board as “Orwellian” for their ‘censorship’ of his highly-acclaimed graphic novel.

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Edited by Prem Deshpande
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