A Tennessee School Board has voted to ban educators from teaching Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir of his family and the Holocaust, Maus. The graphic novel, which depicts Jewish people as mice and Nazis as cats, is one of hundreds of books that have been pulled from school shelves since 2020, primarily in conservative school districts.
The 10 members of the McMinn County Board of Education said they were concerned about “rough, objectionable language,” especially the phrase, “God damn,” as well as brief depictions of mouse nudity. In one scene, Spiegelman drew his mother (again as a mouse) being found naked in a bathtub after slitting her wrists.
According to minutes from the January 10th meeting, the school board had considered redacting these sections, but worried they would be in violation of copyright law, and decided to censor instead.
One board member, Tony Allman, was quoted as saying that Spiegelman’s memoir of anti-Semitism and Naziism promotes violence. “It shows people hanging, it shows them killing kids, why does the educational system promote this kind of stuff, it is not wise or healthy,” he said. “Being in the schools, educators and stuff we don’t need to enable or somewhat promote this stuff.”
One assistant principal defended Maus as an important tool for teaching the Holocaust. “Mr. Spiegelman did his very best to depict his mother passing away and we are almost 80 years away. It’s hard for this generation, these kids don’t even know 9/11, they were not even born,” Julie Goodin said, according to the minutes. “For me this was his way to convey the message.” But in the end, all 10 board members voted to remove Maus from the eighth-grade curriculum.