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“Maus”: Why I started reading a “banned” book, a “graphic” story — of the Holocaust

“Story of the Spiegelman family in Poland from 1935 to 1944”

… Author: banning was “Orwellian”

The move to ban books from libraries across the United States will not daunt my reading lists. In fact, it is returning some books to the best-seller lists across the United States of America after decades.

And, that is showing that many people are outraged by the actions of a minority in harming the educational opportunities for young people.

And, ironically, “Maus: A Survivor's Tale,” a book written by Art Speigelman in 1986 about his family’s history during the Holocaust, has returned to the best-seller list after it was banned by a Tennessee school district.

And, many young people are now reading the book simply because it has been banned.

And, young kids have stood up to their school boards in opposing these draconian measures -- and have lost in the short term, but are winners in the long term.

In truth, I had never read Speigelman’s book about his family’s battle to avoid the Holocaust, but I bought it and will read it along with other banned books that I have already read. These include “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Catcher in the Rye,” among many others.

Indeed, I also read another banned book, “The Communist Manifesto,” while a student at Penn State. As I have written previously, that did not make me a communist. The opposite occurred, but it was a vital part of my educational and intellectual development.

I hope that “Maus” will continue that intellectual development for me as I approach my 75th birthday.

Why was “Maus” banned?

Spiegelman’s book is unique in many ways. It is a comic book, and more of that later. The approach to something as serious as the Holocaust and his family’s horrific history with it is something that people might think should not be in a “comic book.”

However, I will make that decision after reading it.

How did this book end up on the list?

The move to ban the book is one being done nationwide in an effort to “protect” children — from becoming educated in what has transpired in the world. That is called history, but not to these people,

A Tennessee school board has voted to remove the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel “Maus” from an eighth grade language arts curriculum due to concerns about profanity and an image of female nudity in its depiction of Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust.

The Jan. 10 vote by the McMinn County School Board, which only began attracting attention Wednesday, comes amid a number of battles in school systems around the country as conservatives target curriculums over teachings about the history of slavery and racism in America.

“I’m kind of baffled by this,” Art Spiegelman, the author of “Maus,” told CNBC in an interview about the unanimous vote by the McMinn board to bar the book, which is about his parents, from continuing to be used in the curriculum …

He called the school board “Orwellian” for its action.

Spiegelman also said he suspected that its members were motivated less about some mild curse words and more by the subject of the book, which tells the story of his Jewish parents’ time in Nazi concentration camps, the mass murder of other Jews by Nazis, his mother’s suicide when he was just 20 and his relationship with his father.

“I’ve met so many young people who ... have learned things from my book,” said Spiegelman about “Maus.” The image in the book that drew objections from the board was of his mother.

Dan Mangan, “Tennessee school board bans Holocaust graphic

novel ‘Maus,’ “ CNBC, January 26, 2022

Times’ review from 1986

A review from the New York Times when the book was issued noted that this book was different from others in four ways,

“Maus: A Survivor’s Tale is a Holocaust memoir with a remarkable difference. True, one thread of it recapitulates the all-too-familiar story of the Spiegelman family in Poland from 1935 to 1944 struggling to avoid the inevitable fate of Auschwitz …

But there are four unusual innovations to the way Mr. Spiegelman has told his story. In ascending order of surprise, these are as follows: First, he explores the relations of the surviving generation and its children, especially the guilt visited by the former upon the latter …

Second, Mr. Spiegelman brings considerable humor to the telling of his story …

“Third, Maus is a comic book! Yes, a comic book complete with word balloons, speed lines, exclamations such as ‘sob,’ ‘wah,’ ‘whew’ and ‘?!,’ and dozens of techniques for which I simply lack the terminology …

Finally, and perhaps most surprisingly of all, the Jewish characters in the book are all portrayed as mice, while the Nazis are cats, the Poles are pigs and the few non-Jewish Americans that appear are dogs.

“The Unspeakable Through the Diminutive: Read a 1986

Review of Maus,” Book Marks, February 15, 2022

Teacher, now principal, objects to board action

The removal was criticized by an administrator at the school, who had taught the Holocaust in the past. This came in response to the comments made by a board member. Julie Goodin is an assistant principal in the school district, and she said this,

“I can talk of the history, I was a history teacher and there is nothing pretty about the Holocaust, and for me this was a great way to depict a horrific time in history.”

“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,” Goodin said, according to the minutes. “For me this was his way to convey the message. Are the words objectionable? Yes, there is no one that thinks they aren’t, but by taking away the first part, it’s not changing the meaning of what he is trying to portray and copyright.”

Dan Mangan, CNBC, January 26, 2022

She made that statement in response to one of the board members who was quoted in the minutes of the meeting that were released on its website,

One member, Tony Allman, was quoted in the minutes as saying, “Being in the schools, educators and stuff we don’t need to enable or somewhat promote this stuff.”

“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,” Allman said, according to the minutes.

Dan Mangan, CNBC, January 26, 2022

And then Allman went home and showed his son the new AK-15 that he had purchased for him for his birthday.

And then he complained about how America was distorting history by removing statues of Robert E. Lee, who led an army against the USA in an act of treason.

If they are worried about “killing kids,” why do they not do something about the horrific school violence in the U.S.A.?

Banning books will not save children.

Stopping schools shootings with military-style weapons will.

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