Holocaust book Maus hits bestseller list after Tennessee school board ban

Holocaust book Maus hits bestseller list after Tennessee school board ban

Author Art Spiegelman says decision to ban Pulitzer-winning novel that depicts Jewish people as mice is ‘demented’

Two books of the graphic novel Maus by American cartoonist Art Spiegelman are pictured in this illustration in Pasadena, California.

American cartoonist Art Spiegelman says ‘I’ve met so many young people who … have learned things from my book’. Photograph: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Maya Yang in New York

Mon 31 Jan 2022 17.23 GMT

Last modified on Mon 31 Jan 2022 17.47 GMT

The Pulitzer prize-winning Holocaust graphic novel Maus: A Survivor’s Tale has become a bestseller on Amazon, after a Tennessee school board banned it.

Last week, according to meeting minutes, 10 school board members in McMinn county agreed to remove Maus from the eighth-grade curriculum, citing “rough, objectionable language” and sketches of naked women they deemed unsuitable for 13-year-old students.

By the American cartoonist Art Spiegelman and first published in 1986, Maus describes the experiences of Spiegelman’s parents in Nazi concentration camps and his mother’s suicide. The book depicts Jewish people as mice and Nazis as cats.

“We don’t need to enable or somewhat promote this stuff,” McMinn county board member Tony Allman said, adding in reference to the murder of 6 million Jewish people in the second world war: “I am not denying it was horrible, brutal and cruel.

“It shows people hanging,” he said. “It shows them killing kids. Why does the education system promote this kind of stuff? It is not wise or healthy.”

Another board member, Mike Cochran, said: “If I was trying to indoctrinate somebody’s kids, this is how I would do it. You put this stuff just enough on the edges, so the parents don’t catch it but the kids, they soak it in. I think we need to relook at the entire curriculum.”

Spiegelman, 73, told CNBC he was “baffled”.

“It’s leaving me with my jaw open, like, ‘What?’” he said, adding that the board was acting in “Orwellian” fashion.

“I’ve met so many young people who … have learned things from my book,” he said. “I also understand that Tennessee is obviously demented. There’s something going on very, very haywire there.”

As news of the McMinn ban spread, Maus shot on to multiple top 10 lists in Amazon book categories. As of Monday morning, The Complete Maus was second in Amazon’s overall bestseller category. In history, it ranked first. In second world war history, Maus I, the first installment of the novel, also ranked No 1. Variations took the first, second and third spots as bestsellers in literary graphic novels.

Efforts have also emerged to make Maus more accessible to students. One professor at a North Carolina college offered eighth-grade and high-school students in McMinn county a free online class.

“In response to Spiegelman’s Maus I and Maus II being removed from the schools by McMinn county, Tennessee school board members, I am offering this free online course for any McMinn county eighth-grade or high school students interested in reading these books with me,” said Scott Denham of Davidson College.

“I have taught Spiegelman’s books many times in my courses on the Holocaust over many years,” he added, on his website.

Richard Davis, owner of the Nirvana Comics bookstore in Knoxville, Tennessee, offered to loan The Complete Maus to any student. Davis also set up a GoFundMe campaign to buy additional copies. Created with a target of $20,000, it had raised more than $80,000 by Monday.

“Art Spiegelman’s masterpiece is one of the most important, impactful and influential graphic novels of all time,” the page said. “We believe it is a must-read for everyone.”

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When I was 13, I was already buying men’s magazines, like Playboy… and these fucking cretins banned Maus for cartoon drawings of naked women!

They also wanted to ban “It” by Stepen King because of the orgy scene.

If we’re talking about school libraries, those places are infamously thin of resources, anyway. I remember being annoyed that some manga series at my school’s library was missing certain volumes.

That’s precisely how you make another Holocaust possible: by censoring and “protecting” people from stories of the realities of the Nazi regime, because it is too “offensive”

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I’m not Jewish, nor of Jewish descent (to my knowledge); but I am of Korean descent (grandmother’s a North Korean refugee). The idea of censoring a book designed to teach young people about the Holocaust is sickening and insulting. In the age of the Internet, it’s more important than ever to combat misinformation and historical revisionism with education and research. Sorry, but history is cruel and bloody. You can’t sanitize history. It’s bad enough my people are still fighting for recognition of what Japan did to them, we don’t need the horrors of the Holocaust censored, too. The fight against censorship and revisionism has my fullest support.

How topical, considering Whoopi Goldberg’s recent Holocaust comments…

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I’m not Jewish, nor of Jewish descent (to my knowledge); but I am of Korean descent (grandmother’s a North Korean refugee). The idea of censoring a book designed to teach young people about the Holocaust is sickening and insulting. In the age of the Internet, it’s more important than ever to combat misinformation and historical revisionism with education and research. Sorry, but history is cruel and bloody. You can’t sanitize history. It’s bad enough my people are still fighting for recognition of what Japan did to them…

Many women of Asian descent were forced into service as “comfort women” and this has been ignored, for the most part, by the Japanese. You can say what you like about the Germans, but at least they have owned up to what their Nazi ancestors did, unlike the Japanese. Japanese children are taught nothing about what the Japanese military did during the war – all they are taught about is how cruel and racist it was that the Americans decided to use the atomic bomb on them.

Now, with respect to Korea, especially North Korea, all you read about is hysteria about the North Korean regime, how cruel they are to their people, etc. What is almost never mentioned are little things like the fact that the U.S. Air Force carpet-bombed Pyongyang.

How topical, considering Whoopi Goldberg’s recent Holocaust comments…

As someone said, she needs to open a few history books, or better yet, talk to some survivors while there are yet some to talk to.

In terms of bombing, that’s what war is, dearie. As for Japanese war crimes, here’s some perspective. Say what you want about the Japanese, but understand that at least mainland Chinese call the Mongols (like the Horde, not the modern day Mongolians) and the Manchurian Qing their own national heroes, despite the fact that they did basically the same thing as the Japanese (see Genghis Khan’s global cooling and the Manchurian haircut Holocaust, in regards to the queue hairstyle). How do these 2 differ from the Japanese? Simple. They ended up winning their respective wars.

I never meant to imply that America was innocent. The United States committed the infamous No Gun Ri massacre during the Korean War, for instance:

Hell, Korea itself isn’t innocent. Many Korean Quislings sold their own women and girls into sexual slavery. Korean conscripts of the Imperial Japanese Army were infamous for their brutality during the invasion of the Philippines. South Korea was a fascist dictatorship under Park Chung-hee, a former Imperial Japanese soldier; South Korea under Park was responsible for horrific atrocities during the Vietnam War, with America condoning these crimes (and committing plenty of her own).

Etc. But the crimes of America and Korea fail to wipe away what Japan did, nor does it excuse Japan’s continued denial of her past. And vice versa.

I agree. All nations have skeletons in the closet, and it’s deeply hypocritical for a nation to hold up it’s own war criminals as “heroes” while condemning their enemies as “monsters”. Japan was a brutal, fascist war machine on par with Nazi Germany, but the Mongol Empire killed approx. 40 million people. The next time such numbers would be seen again was when the Americas got colonized.

Ironically, it’s a bit backwards here when it comes to “history written by victors”. Mongolia and China today are virtually NEVER condemned (except by maybe the Middle East (mostly Iran) and occasionally Japan) for having those giant statues of Mongol warriors everywhere, even though the mighty Mongol Empire is no more. They lost in the end.

America friggin’ won its wars against natives no contest, but America is constantly criticized for her bloody, bloody past (rightfully so). It’s as if there’s a massive modern backlash against “history written by the victors” going on in the West, while elsewhere just doesn’t seem to care as much about all that.

Actually, heck, sometimes victory’s written by the losers! Neo-Confederates, Turkish nationalists, Japanese schools, etc. These people lost their wars big-time, but successfully push a narrative on their people that they’re the good guys and no atrocities happened. I honestly think that whole “written by winners” thing is practically false in the age of misinformation and censorship. It doesn’t matter how bad you lose, all you gotta do is control what info reaches the public. Newspeak, lies into truth.

But that’s it. By all rights, Mongols, like the Japanese, should also be “foreigners” to the Han Chinese. However, because they established the Yuan dynasty, they became “Chinese” by virtue of killing lots of Chinese. In other words, had Japan not provoked the US with Pearl Harbor and took China, I promise that all the Chinese survivors would be proudly waving Japanese flags. Truly, Pearl Harbor was a rather spasmatic move. Of course, I’m sure that Hitler would have preferred the Japanese at the Soviet Union, rather than China at all.

Yeah, Japan was already at war with China before Germany invaded Poland, so Japan’s attention would be split from the get go. Funnily enough, Hitler considered both Japanese AND Chinese to be “honorary Aryans”, while Japan constantly yammered on about the “superiority” of the Japanese race over other Asians. Chiang Kai-shek originally wanted to join forces with Japan to fight the Chinese communists and Soviets, but Japan’s invasion forced him to, ironically, join forces with Mao and Stalin instead.

I know. Mao initially even thanked the Japanese for diverting nationalist attention away from him… Of course, when the CCP wanted some extra pocket change, they kept demanding “reparation” ad infinitum. That’s why I’m suspicious about the very conception of “reparations” as a whole.

Oh believe me, I despise the concept of reparations. However, I still believe modern nations have an obligation to educate about the past in a non-glorifying light. Just cuz something happened long ago, even in ancient times, doesn’t mean glorifying it can’t have disastrous consequences in the future.

Look no further than Mussolini. The man was OBSESSED with the Roman Empire, his ultimate goal being to recreate it in the modern day. To this end, Italy invaded (and sometimes conquered) places like Ethiopia, Greece, Albania, Yugoslavia, Egypt, Turkey, etc., committing horrifying atrocities along the way. Just cuz that’s what the Ancient Romans did to people almost over 2000 years ago.

So, I don’t wanna imagine the bloodstorm that’ll occur if Mongolia/China came to be ruled by a madman obsessed with the old empire, and managed to hold enough power to wage war to recreate it. 1000, 2000, a million years ago. It doesn’t matter to me: the victims of the past are long gone, but their pain was still very real. We should denigrate, not celebrate, even ancient atrocities. Who knows the kind of people who’ll use past conquests to justify future irredentism?

“Fun” fact: the medieval Battle of Tsushima saw Korean soldiers of the Mongol Horde invading Japanese territory. The Japanese Empire used this medieval invasion as justification for colonizing Korea. I even once came across a Japanese nationalist using this very excuse to hate and threaten Koreans (“You guys started it at the Battle of Tsushima! You got what you deserved!”).

So yeah, the past does matter. I don’t want Japan or anyone else to pay reparations or anything like that: I just want politicians and nationalists to stop lying through their deluded teeth about what happened. To stop glorifying the genocidal conquerors of ages past.

Well, I do agree with one should only teach history objectively. However, each person’s own interpretation is up to them. For example, whenever someone from, for example, the US calls out China’s modern day atrocities, those same wumao will often bring up what the US did in the past. Unfortunately, that is often enough to shame the detractor into silence. In other words, the CCP knows that with the US’s current “woke” atmosphere, they can easily be controlled with oikophobia.

To put it another way, the CCP knows that the current US is super susceptible to shame whilst remaining shameless themselves, and let’s be honest. I would like to think that, nowadays, it should be clear that any other country will not be leading the PRC to better themselves through the method of leading by example. In other words, the more the US remains easily shamed oikophobes, the more demoralized they will be against the PRC.

That’s why I often say that, when dealing with a country, like the PRC, who clearly spouts rules for others but does not follow through themselves, mostly infamously in terms of trade agreements that they themselves signed, you need to deal with them with thicker skin. Frankly, be a little shameless. I mean, when the colonial rebels of the American Revolution heard a certain song meant to shame them, what did they do? They did not get sad or mad.

They ended up singing that song themselves:

And of course, there was that time that Sima Yi was sent a woman’s dress as a means to insult and provoke him, and he owned it by putting it on:

In other words, “glorification” or “denigration” places a moral value on the action. I say that, especially for practical reasons, one should look at historical events, especially during wartime for their strategic or tactical value.

Oh yeah, don’t get me wrong: fuck the CCP. A nation CURRENTLY committing atrocities has no right whatsoever to criticize another nation for PAST atrocities. Xi Jinping and his ilk can take the race card and shove it. North Korea also pulled this a few years back; paraphrasing:

“The United States is an imperial country, whose bellies were fed with the flesh and blood of Native Americans!”

Yeah, cuz I believe the WPK cares about Native Americans.

I’m just speaking of history more generally. Glorifying past atrocities can and has enabled modern people to continue these atrocities. That’s why Neo-Confederates, Neo-Nazis, Armenian genocide denialists, Nanjing massacre denialists, etc., unnerve me so much. If people like this get their way, slavery and genocide could very well be reinstated. As we make one step forward, we could easily take two steps back.

China is based
– future EU & NA Citizens after living in an Orwellian state that’s technologically far worse off.

Going with your Tsushima example, instead of worrying about who was right and who was wrong, the only thing that I would bother “glorifying” is how such a small group of Japanese defenders was able to fight off the Mongol Horde (Koreans or otherwise). Ghost of Tsushima and Angolmois are amazing. Sure, the Mongols were able to pass that point, but many of the officers were so demoralized about such a small group giving them this much trouble that their previous confidence about fighting the Japanese was gone (under the assumption that all Japanese would fight this hard).

Basically, like at the Battle of Thermopylae. Sure, the Spartans lost, but they inspired the rest of Greece to drive out the Persians. If you want to go WWII, denigrate Nazism all you want (and you’d be correct), but in terms of individual German soldiers, you have to admit that Michael Wittmann and/or his tank team were pretty badass. Unlike Erwin Rommel, who was Wehrmacht, I know that Michael Wittmann was Waffen-SS, but he is most well-known for his combat ability, not his politics.

Even a British war vet said that Wittmann, despite being SS, was not a “typical Nazi”:

Still, I understand your point that history should be used as guidelines, rather than rules of governance.

As for Nanjing, are they really “denialists” so much as calling out the hypocrisy that the CCP only made a big deal about it long after the fact when they needed land or money from the Japanese? Again, Mao initially praised them for drawing nationalist attention away from the commies. Understand that the CCP initially censored any reports of Soviet war crimes on the Chinese until relationships soured between their 2 governments, and then suddenly all the victims of Soviet rape came forward all at once.

People seem to only want to talk about this kind of stuff in such a context when they want something tangible from the other side.

I’m not talking about the people who rightfully accuse the CCP of abusing the Nanjing massacre and other Japanese atrocities to rally their citizens into hating all Japanese and blindly supporting the CCP. I’m talking about neo-imperialists who downplay or outright deny things like the Nanjing massacre, Unit 731, or “comfort women”. The men and women who go around marching in the streets with their megaphones, calling Koreans “gokiburi” and chanting “all Koreans deserve to die!”, like something you’d see at a Klan rally.

Fuck those people.

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Yeah, that’s very different. Providing context to something and outright denying it are 2 very different things.

Oh, another example of using history as guidelines, rather than rules: While most people nowadays are probably uncomfortable with Vlad III’s preferred method of execution, I’d like to think that we can appreciate his views on compassion and gratitude. Ever heard of the story of Vlad III and the Golden Cup? In his city, there was a drinking fountain with a golden cup. Citizens and travelers could use the cup or their own drinking vessel to drink and collect as much drinking water as they wanted. However, if someone stole the golden drinking cup itself… Well, see the aforementioned preferred execution method.

I like this story as it shows infinite compassion protected by infinite cruelty. Right now, the CCP, after “drinking” from the world’s support (back when they thought that doing so would make the PRC more democratic), has stolen the cup. However, the world’s response was not that infinite cruelty, but just bringing another cup, hoping that the CCP would eventually feel really bad about it. I promise you. They never will. If you want to allow people to drink from your golden cup, you must declare punishments for stealing it. And more importantly, you must enforce those punishments.