February 1, 2022
By now, almost everyone has heard the story of the Tennessee School Board which unanimously voted to ban the 1986 Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel, Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, by Art Spiegelman. The story has legs because of how completely insane this decision appears to be.
But, it’s actually dumber than you think. In an appearance on CNN, Spiegelman says that after reading the transcript of the school board meeting, the problem is “bigger and stupider” than people possibly being Nazis. The focus of the school board’s objections were “bad language” and “nudity.”
To add perspective, the foul language the board cites are two words which you are likely to hear on any network television program in 2022, “bitch” and “damn.” And, as for nudity, Spiegelman describes an animated panel in which the mother character, depicted as a Mouse, is viewed in the bathtub from above after slashing her wrists. “It’s a tiny image, so you really have to want to get your sexual kicks by projecting on it. It seems like a crazy place to get them,” says Spiegelman.
I’m embarrassed to say I was not familiar with Maus before the controversy. I had already graduated from school when the book was published and feel as if I missed an important aspect of my education. Hearing the book was a memoir, I immediately went online to purchase a copy of the two volume set. I was not surprised to see that it was sold out. Banning a book is the easiest way to make it a best seller.
Since the story broke, Maus has been donated to libraries, schools and teaching centers across the country. I should get my copy of Maus in 3 to 5 weeks and I’m eager to read it. And, I promise I’ll be more offended by the death of six million innocents than the cartoon image of naked mouse boobies.