The Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman has just been banned from classrooms in McMinn County in Tennessee. The acclaimed book shares the story of Spiegelman’s parents’ experiences during the Holocaust as Polish Jews and surviving internment at Auschwitz.
The genre-defying work is written with the structure of Spiegelman interviewing his father about his experiences during World War II, representing Jews as mice and Germans as cats, with those from other countries depicted as other animals like pigs, dogs, fish, frogs, and deer.
Even publishing Maus was tricky from the outset, with just the first six chapters published in 1986 in a volume entitled Maus: A Survivor’s Tale with the subtitle, My Father Bleeds History. The last five chapters weren’t published for another five years, when a second volume subtitled And Here My Troubles Began was released in 1991. Maus was awarded the Special Award in Letters Pulitzer Prize in 1992, the only graphic novel ever to do so to this day.
Alas, these merits weren’t enough for the McMinn County Schools board, who voted to ban the book from their eighth-grade curriculum due to its use of swear words and a naked illustration of a mouse. Spiegelman himself says he is baffled by the decision and even referred to it as an “Orwellian” measure.
This decision fans the fire of an ongoing national debate over the curriculum in US public schools, with the teaching of critical race theory polarizing parents, teachers, and school boards. Just this past month, Florida’s state Board of Education banned CRT from public school classrooms.