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It's not the first time Art Spiegelman has seen his book "Maus" stir controversy. In fact, he said he sees it on the table at his local bookstore every year during "Banned Books Week."
As word spread around the globe about a Tennessee school board removing the book from its curriculum, Spiegelman spoke with The Tennessean on Thursday about what it means to him and what he hopes the book communicates.
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The book is a graphic novel that tells the story of Spiegelman's Jewish parents living in 1940s Poland. It follows them through their internment in Auschwitz. Nazis are portrayed as cats, while Jewish people are shown as mice. The novel also includes conversations between Spiegelman and his elderly father as he convinces him to tell his story.
Spiegelman was awarded a Pulitzer for the book in 1992.
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When he first created "Maus," which originally ran in his comic anthology RAW in 1980 and was adapted into a book in 1986, he never anticipated it would be used in schools.
"I made it when there was no such thing as a graphic novel," he said. "I was doing that to teach myself and share with others."
He said he's happy that the book has "an afterlife" as a teaching tool. He sees it as something that can spark conversations and deeper understanding about things like genocide and oppression.
"It's a book that breaks through in a way that others can't," he said. "It allows an entry point for people. I just don't want it to be boxed in as only about the Holocaust or only about the Jews."
Eight "curse words" and the nude drawing were at the forefront of the concerns over the book, according to the board minutes.
Spiegelman said that he thinks the board's decision is "absurd" and that the words in question are several mentions of "God d---" and the word "b----." The nude drawing in question depicts his mother's suicide, he said. It includes a "dot for a nipple" and a bathtub filled with blood.
He sees the board's decision as part of a much larger picture of often polarizing debates over things like critical race theory, oppression and slavery. He said he's alarmed by school boards banning books nationwide.
"This is not about left versus right," he said. "This is about a culture war that's gotten totally out of control."
Find reporter Rachel Wegner at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @rachelannwegner.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: 'Maus' author Art Spiegelman calls removal of book in Tennessee absurd