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Tennessee school board bans Holocaust graphic novel Maus

“There is some rough, objectionable language in this book,” said a school board director.

A SCHOOL BOARD in the US state of Tennessee has added to a surge in book bans by conservatives with an order to remove Maus, an award-winning 1986 graphic novel on the Holocaust, from local student libraries.

Author Art Spiegelman told CNN today – which is International Holocaust Remembrance Day – that the ban of his book for crude language was “myopic” and represents a “bigger and stupider” problem than any with his specific work.

The ban, decided by the McMinn County Board of Education in eastern Tennessee on January 10, sparked uproar in the US among advocates of literary freedom after it became widely known in the past few days.

It was the most recent controversy over conservatives seeking to purge school libraries of books they find objectionable, with the focus on works that offer alternatives to traditional views of US history and culture, particularly from the viewpoints of African Americans, LGBTQ youths and other minority groups.

Maus was highly acclaimed when it was published as a compilation of Spiegelman’s serialized tale of the experiences of his father, a Polish Jewish man, with the Nazis and in a concentration camp during the Holocaust.

The book, which depicted characters in the story as animals – Jewish people are mice and Germans are cats – won a Pulitzer Prize and other awards, and was accepted in many secondary schools as a strong and accurate depiction of the Nazi murder of millions of Jews during World War II.

The ban by the McMinn County school authority though focused on the use of eight crude words like “damn” and “bitch” and one scene of nudity, which some parents said were inappropriate for schoolchildren.

“There is some rough, objectionable language in this book,” said school board director Lee Parkison, who proposed just redacting those parts of the book.

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But others argued that, while teaching teens about the Holocaust was necessary, a different book was needed.

“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,” asked board member Tony Allman. 

The US Holocaust Museum, which documents the Nazi atrocities against Jews, strongly questioned the ban.

“Teaching about the Holocaust using books like ‘Maus’ can inspire students to think critically about the past and their own roles and responsibilities today,” it said in a statement.

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