Maus: The Banned Holocaust Graphic Novel (2013)

Maus is a graphic novel by American cartoonist Art Spiegelman. Read the book:

Serialized from 1980 to 1991, it depicts Spiegelman interviewing his father about his experiences as a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. The work employs postmodernist techniques and represents Jews as mice, Germans as cats, Poles as pigs, Americans as dogs, the English as fish, the French as frogs, and the Swedish as deer. Critics have classified Maus as memoir, biography, history, fiction, autobiography, or a mix of genres. In 1992, it became the first (and to date only) graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize (the Special Award in Letters).

In the frame-tale timeline in the narrative present that begins in 1978 in New York City, Spiegelman talks with his father Vladek about his Holocaust experiences, gathering material for the Maus project he is preparing. In the narrative past, Spiegelman depicts these experiences, from the years leading up to World War II to his parents' liberation from the Nazi concentration camps. Much of the story revolves around Spiegelman's troubled relationship with his father, and the absence of his mother, who took her own life when he was 20. Her grief-stricken husband destroyed her written accounts of Auschwitz. The book uses a minimalist drawing style and displays innovation in its pacing, structure, and page layouts.

A three-page strip also called "Maus" that he made in 1972 gave Spiegelman an opportunity to interview his father about his life during World War II. The recorded interviews became the basis for the graphic novel, which Spiegelman began in 1978. He serialized Maus from 1980 until 1991 as an insert in Raw, an avant-garde comics and graphics magazine published by Spiegelman and his wife, Françoise Mouly, who also appears in Maus. A collected volume of the first six chapters that appeared in 1986 brought the book mainstream attention; a second volume collected the remaining chapters in 1991. Maus was one of the first graphic novels to receive significant academic attention in the English-speaking world.

On January 10, 2022, the board of trustees of McMinn County Schools in east Tennessee, in a 10–0 decision, removed Maus from its curriculum for 8th grade English classes. The board cited as its reasons "rough language" and "unnecessary" profanity (eight words, including "damn"), a small drawing of a nude woman drawn as a mouse, mentions of murder, violence, and suicide, and what the board deemed the values of the community; in addition, a board member said that at one time in the past the author of Maus had drawn cartoons for Playboy magazine.

The ban overrode a Tennessee state curriculum review that had approved the book. A former teacher who spoke at the meeting observed that "there is nothing pretty about the Holocaust, and for me this was a great way to depict a horrific time in history." The vote attracted media attention the day before Holocaust Remembrance Day, and was covered by media in the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Israel.

Spiegelman called the decision baffling, "Orwellian", and "daffily myopic", continuing "I can't believe the word 'damn' would get the book jettisoned out of the school on its own." Spiegelman said that he got the impression that the board members were asking, "Why can't they teach a nicer Holocaust?"

The Tennessean noted the significant backlash to the decision. Tennessee State Representative John Ray Clemmons, serving on the House Education Administration Committee, criticized the board's action, saying: "Books are being stripped out of public libraries that give detailed personal accounts from survivors and about victims of the Holocaust." Tennessee's US Representatives Jim Cooper and Steve Cohen condemned the ban; Cooper called the decision "outrageous" and "really shameful", and Cohen said that he hoped to see the board's decision reversed. Award-winning author Neil Gaiman tweeted: "There's only one kind of people who would vote to ban Maus, whatever they are calling themselves these days." Tennessee Wesleyan University librarian Alex Sharp, in McMinn County, pointed out that "children see more than eight swear words in one TikTok video nowadays", and that "When we start banning books, we get into really dangerous territory where we are stunting our children, and not allowing them to have exposure to important ideas."

Following the ban, the book became an Amazon best-seller. An Episcopal church in the county announced that it would conduct a discussion of Maus on February 3, including discussion of the complicity of many churches in the Holocaust.

Nirvana Comics bookstore in nearby Knoxville, Tennessee offered loans of "The Complete Maus" to any student. Donors sent the owner $30,000 to help fund his efforts.
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