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