Tennessee School Board Removes Holocaust Graphic Novel Maus From Its Curriculum

Rob Bricken, writing for Gizmodo, outlines the short-sighted school board decision to remove Maus from its middle-school curriculum.

As CNN reports, the 10-member board voted—unanimously—to remove Maus from its eighth-grade literary curriculum because of its objectionable language” and nudity back on January 10, despite arguments from instructional supervisors. But clearly, the content of the series was also in the board’s collective minds. According to the minutes of the meeting, board member Tony Allman said, We don’t need to enable or somewhat promote this stuff. It shows people hanging, it shows them killing kids, why does the educational system promote this kind of stuff? It is not wise or healthy.”

Why promote Maus? Because the Holocaust was real, and it’s incredibly important that everyone learn about it and no one forgets it. What makes Maus such a special way to teach this to young teens is two-fold. First, by depicting Jews as mice and Nazis as cats, it makes the narrative just unreal enough that it can be processed by young readers while still faithfully depicting the atrocities committed during the Holocaust. Second, the story is wholly authentic—Maus is not only Art Spiegelman’s autobiography of his talks with his father Vladek about the latter’s experiences in World War II, but it’s also a biography of his father, visually depicting his life before, during, and after his time in the Auschwitz concentration camp. That nudity, by the way, comes from a lone panel of Art’s mother Anja, who committed suicide by cutting her wrists in a bathtub in 1968. It couldn’t be less salacious.

They purposely don’t get it. They don’t want to understand it. They don’t comprehend the reality or emotional weight of anti-Semitism or the Holocaust. They won’t stop with pulling it from the curriculum. They will want it out of the school library and then the public library, and then they will push for an outright ban of the book.

We need stories like Maus. Personal, uncomfortable stories that drive home how evil becomes commonplace and how easy it is to dehumanize an entire people based on arbitrary characteristics. 

Also, the nudity in question is mouse nudity,” so come off your high horse, Mr. Allman.

UPDATE: Of course, sales soar for Maus after its banning in Tennessee.

January 29, 2022