(MCMINN COUNTY, Tenn.) — “Maus,” a Pulitzer-winning book about the Holocaust, has been banned in one Tennessee school district.
The graphic novel by Art Spiegelman, chronicles how the author’s parents survived the Holocaust in the Auschwitz concentration camp through depictions of animals — with the Holocaust victims as mice, and Nazis as cats.
At a McMinn County Board of Education meeting on Jan. 10, some members objected to the novel’s images of mice stripping their clothes off at the concentration camp and what they said was its “vulgar” language.
The school board’s decision to ban the book took place on Jan. 10, but news of the ban went viral online and sparked outrage on Wednesday, the day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The school board meeting minutes show that the vote to ban the book was unanimous among board members.
“The values of the county are understood. There is some rough, objectionable language in this book and knowing that and hearing from many of you and discussing it, two or three of you came by my office to discuss that,” said McMinn County director of schools Lee Parkison at the beginning of the session.
As a result, the board “decided the best way to fix or handle the language in this book was to redact it.”
Other board members chimed in, also citing concerns about the graphic imagery and language.
“Being in the schools, educators and stuff we don’t need to enable or somewhat promote this stuff,” said board member Tony Allman. “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.”
Some board members defended the importance of the book’s reflection on history but voted to ban it due to copyright issues that could arise from solely censoring parts of the book.
Spiegelman told CNBC that he was shocked by the decision.
“It’s leaving me with my jaw open, like, ‘What?"” said Spiegelman. “I’ve met so many young people who … have learned things from my book.”
This comes as several books covering topics such as the Holocaust, racism, slavery, gender diversity or sexual orientation are being targeted in schools and libraries.
The U.S. Holocaust Museum denounced the board’s decision on Twitter.
“Teaching about the Holocaust using books like Maus can inspire students to think critically about the past and their own roles and responsibilities today,” the organization said in a tweet.
1/ Maus has played a vital role in educating about the Holocaust through sharing detailed and personal experiences of victims and survivors. On the eve of International #HolocaustRemembranceDay, it is more important than ever for students to learn this history.
— US Holocaust Museum (@HolocaustMuseum) January 27, 2022
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