Friday, January 28, 2022

Tennessee School Board Bans Maus


Maus, Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, has been removed from the McMinn County, TN eighth grade language arts curriculum by the local school board due to concerns over profanity and nudity.

The Guardian:

"A Tennessee school board has banned a Pulitzer prize-winning novel from its classrooms over eight curse words and an illustration of a naked cartoon mouse.

"The graphic novel, Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by New Yorker Art Spiegelman, uses hand-drawn illustrations of mice and cats to depict how the author’s parents survived Auschwitz during the Holocaust.

"The graphic memoir elevated a pulp mass medium to high art when it nabbed a slew of literary awards in 1992 but appears not to have impressed educators in McMinn county.

"Ten board members unanimously agreed in favor of removing the novel from the eighth-grade curriculum, citing its use of the phrase “God Damn” and drawings of 'naked pictures' of women, according to minutes taken from a board of education meeting earlier this month."

 The writer Neil Gaiman tweeted:

"There's only one kind of people who would vote to ban Maus, whatever they are calling themselves these days."

"Spiegelman was born in 1948, and the book is framed as him interviewing his father about his parents' experience during World War II, with the Jews as mice and Germans as cats. The image of nudity is the character who represents Spiegelman's mother.

"The language cited by the school board is the use of 'God damn,' but there is no lack of harsh language in Maus, given the nature of it being a story about war and bigotry. Similar debates have erupted around books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, which features vulgarities as well as racial slurs. It is periodically the subject of debates or bans as a result, but it is generally accepted that the book's literary value overcomes language concerns. It isn't uncommon for comics and graphic novels to be held to a different standard than prose novels."

Writer/artist Nick Abadzis:

"While Maus isn’t a kid’s book per se - aside from just being a brilliant work that redefined what the language of comics can and should do - it is an entry-level text for anyone, especially younger people, gaining a first understanding and exploration of the holocaust. It’s possible at eighth grade some kids might not be ready for it - but surely that is what a responsible and ethically aware gatekeeper will divine from a potentially interested child? Give them good information - a context for the story. Let them know what’s in the pages of that book and let them make the choice to read or to not read themselves. While Maus doesn’t shy away from describing acts of human darkness, it expertly handles very difficult subject matter sensitively and obliquely by way of visual metaphor and memoir. It’s visceral, but symbolically so via its incredibly deft use of visual grammar, which is why it’s so powerful."

Art Spiegleman was on MSNBC yesterday. "I just know the people that banned this are stupid," he said, adding that the decision was "Orwellian."

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