Following news that a Tennessee school board unanimously voted to ban the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus — a memoir about the Holocaust — the book’s author Art Spiegelman appeared on CNN to express his disappointment and “bafflement” about the situation.
“I moved past total bafflement to trying to be tolerant of people who may possibly not be Nazis, maybe,” Spiegelman said, adding that — upon reading the minutes of the McMinn County Board of Education meeting — he was surprised Maus was banned more for language than for its content. “Dammit I can’t believe the word ‘Damn’ would get the book jettisoned out of schools on its own, but that’s really where the genuine focus seemed to be.”
The legendary cartoonist added, “I think they’re so myopic in their focus and they’re so afraid of what’s implied and having to defend the decision to teach Maus as part of the curriculum that it led to this daffily myopic response.”
“It has the breath of autocracy and fascism about it… I think of it as a harbinger of things to come.”
-Art Spiegelman, Pulitzer prize-winning author and illustrator of Maus, on a TN school district banning his book pic.twitter.com/C4IA7yQKFA
— Nora Neus (@noraneus) January 27, 2022
Maus, published in full in 1991, tells Spiegelman’s father’s experience as a Polish Jew during the Holocaust and at Auschwitz, albeit via anthropomorphic animals like mice, cats, and pigs. Maus is considered not only one of the greatest graphic novels of all time but one of the best books of the 20th century, yet the McMinn County Board of Education voted 10-0 in favor of banning it from its schools.
“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,” McMinn County Director of Schools Lee Parkison said during the board meeting (via CNN).
Speaking to CNN, Spiegelman warned of the danger of banning books, especially books that caution against the dangers of fascism. “It has the breath of autocracy and fascism about it,” Spiegelman added. “I’m still trying to figure out how this could be… I think of it as a harbinger of things to come.”
The news of the Tennessee school board banning Maus came one day before Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jan. 27.