Banned Books: Maus


You may have remembered the graphic novel Maus, by Art Spiegelman from a required reading list from middle school or high school. Maus depicts Spiegelman’s father, Vladek, and his time in a concentration camp during the Holocaust.

Given its graphic novel form, Germans get drawn as cats, Jews get drawn as mice, and Poles get drawn as pigs.

Recently, Maus was banned by a Tennessee school board from the curriculum because of slight profanity and (cartoon animal) nudity.

The novel does contain profanity- eight words throughout the entire novel- but the words are nothing that a student in the school hasn’t heard from another student or home before. The profanity also plays a significant role in the novel because they reflect a personal story about Vladek’s experience in the Holocaust.

Regarding animal nudity, the specific panels shown on various online sources are reminiscent of the Jews being lined up before being taken to gas chambers at one of the main concentration camps, Auschwitz.

If you look at the panel, the nudity is not that vulgar and again, is reminiscent of the actual events. If anything, the panel shows a very PG version of the real thing.

According to Tennessee school board members, the book is banned because they do not believe that the board and schools should be promoting the nature of deaths that occurred during this time- even though the books reflect an actual event in history.

It’s like the school board is trying to sugarcoat how drastic the Holocaust and the nature of the deaths were, which isn’t right because if they’re not going to use Maus, a graphic novel with mice, to teach the Holocaust, they certainly aren’t going to use any documentaries, pictures, or other books such as Night or Survival in Auschwitz.

Spiegelman, author of Maus, does not believe that the ban is motivated by anti-semitism but does believe that the ban intends to teach a version of the Holocaust that isn’t reflective of the intensity of the events as they actually happened.

If you take a look at the minutes from the school board meeting, it’s evident that one instructional supervisor (J. Goodin) within the school board pushed for Maus to be in the curriculum because it teaches about the Holocaust and that it is, without a doubt, something that needs to be taught in schools and Maus is the first step to doing that.

As the board members continued to debate the presence of Maus within the curriculum, two main board members continued to debate the matter by bringing up Spiegelman’s past work (he used to be a cartoonist for Playboy) and by justifying their past sins by removing the book from the hands of the students within the school.

That’s not reason enough to take away a vital part of history because again, if they’re not going to teach Maus, they certainly aren’t going to teach the drastic reality of what the Holocaust was.

Whether or not you think Maus should get banned from the Tennessee school, students should give it a read. It shows readers a new aspect of the Holocaust, and it makes it easier for younger readers to understand the severity of the historical event and that’s exactly why the book shouldn’t be banned. This aspect of education and history shouldn’t continue to get repressed.

Two copies of Maus are available for checkout at Lane Library on the Armstrong campus.