Maus author hits out at ‘Orwellian’ school district banning his acclaimed Holocaust graphic novel

·2 min read

A school board in Tennessee has unanimously voted to remote Maus – a Pulitzer Prize winner graphic novel – from the language arts curriculum, citing concerns over profanity and female nudity.

The move has since been described as “Orwellian” by its creator, Art Spiegelman, given that it is a depiction of Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust.

Its removal is just the latest flashpoint in the ongoing row over what children are being taught in schools – predominantly in more conservative states.

Prior to this move, several schools around the US have already removed book titles, or even purged authors altogether from the curriculum, due to their subject matter. For instance, a largely right-wing moral panic over the teaching of so-called “Critical Race Theory” has led to many books about slavery and racism in America being banned by individual schoolboards.

Mr Spiegelman expressed his consternation to CNBC, after the decision was taken by McMinn County School Board on 10 January. The board voted 10-0 to remove it from the curriculum.

“I’m kind of baffled by this ... it’s leaving me with my jaw open, like, ‘What?’”, he said in the interview, also admitting that he only learned of the ban after it was the subject of a tweet Wednesday – a day before Holocaust Remembrance Day.

He called the school board “Orwellian” for its action.

Spiegelman also said he suspected that its members were motivated less about some mild curse words and more by the subject of the book, which tells the story of his Jewish parents’ time in Nazi concentration camps, the mass murder of other Jews by Nazis, his mother’s suicide when he was just 20, and his relationship with his father.

Art Spiegelman (Dave Allocca/Starpix/Shutterstock)
Art Spiegelman (Dave Allocca/Starpix/Shutterstock)

“I’ve met so many young people who ... have learned things from my book,” said Spiegelman about Maus. “I also understand that Tennessee is obviously demented. There’s something going on very, very haywire there.”

McMinn County is overwhelmingly Republican, with Donald Trump having won almost 80 per cent of its vote share in the 2020 Presidential election.

Fellow author Neil Gaiman, who wrote ‘The Sandman’ comic book series, took to Twitter to voice his dismay at the decision.

McMinn school board member Rob Shamblin told a CNBC reporter Wednesday night he did not remember when the board took its vote. According to the outlet, he declined to comment further and referred questions to the board’s president.

The cultural battle over school curriculums is seemingly set to be rumble on, as many conservative representatives are likely to make the eradication of CRT teaching in schools a key cornerstone of their reelection campaigns come November.