The nonfiction comic book by American cartoonist Art Spiegelman depicts the author’s interviews with his father about his experiences as a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. The book is centered around his parents’ time in Nazi concentration camps, the mass murder of other Jews by Nazis, his mother’s suicide when he was just 20 years old, and Spiegelman’s relationship with his father.
In 1992, it became the first (and, as it currently stands, the only) graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize. In the years since its publication, schools have frequently used the book as course material for many subjects: history, psychology, language arts, and social studies.
On Jan. 10, the McMinn County School Board voted to remove the novel from its eighth trade language arts curriculum due to concerns about profanity and a non-sexual image of female nudity (the author’s mother) in its depiction of the Jews who survived the Holocaust.
“We don’t need this stuff to teach kids history,” Mike Cochran, one of the school board members, said during the meeting. “We can teach them history and we can teach them graphic history. We can tell them exactly what happened, but we don’t need all the nakedness and all the other stuff.”
The banning of “Maus” is just one of the number of battles occurring in school districts across the U.S. over curriculums that teach the history of slavery and racism in America.
“I’m kind of baffled by this,” Spiegelman tells CNBC in an interview about the unanimous vote by the McMinn school board to ban the book. “It’s leaving me with my jaw open, like, ‘What?'”
Spiegelman learned about the ban the day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day last week. “I’ve met so many young people who…have learned things from my book,” he said.
Despite the headline-making ban of “Maus”—or, more accurately, because of it—“The Complete Maus” held the number one spot among Amazon’s bestsellers in the categories of fiction satire, and comics and graphic novels over the weekend. “Maus I,” an earlier published book that is the first part of the complete series, made it to the number five spot on Amazon’s list.
Many reviewers have already shared their support of the book, especially as a historical education tool for teenagers.
According to The New York Times, Spiegelman says he’s concerned about the vote. He does agree, however,
that the real-life imagery used in his novel is disturbing.
“But you know what?” he tells the Times. “It’s disturbing history.”