Defense of 'Maus' erupts online after McMinn County schools remove it from curriculum

·5 min read

A Tennessee school board's decision to remove Pulitzer Prize-winning book "Maus" from its curriculum has led to backlash on social media from politicians, journalists, organizations and more.

The 10-member McMinn County School Board voted unanimously in a Jan. 10 meeting to remove the book from its eighth-grade curriculum, citing concerns over "rough" language and a nude drawing of a woman, according to meeting minutes posted to the district website. The vote came after discussions about the book's content, how to best teach students about the Holocaust, age appropriateness and the values of the school district and community.

Author responds: 'Absurd:' Art Spiegelman speaks out on Tennessee school board's decision to remove 'Maus'

Maus' removed: What we know about the removal of Holocaust book 'Maus' by a Tennessee school board

"Maus," written by comic artist Art Spiegelman, is a graphic novel that tells the story of his Jewish parents living in 1940s Poland. It follows them through their internment in Auschwitz. Nazis are depicted as cats, while Jewish people are shown as mice. The book was published in 1986, and Spiegelman was awarded a Pulitzer for it in 1992.

Online backlash about the book's removal swelled around Holocaust Remembrance Day this year. Jan. 27 is designated to commemorate the anniversary of the Auschwitz concentration camp's liberation in 1945. More than 1.1 million people died at Auschwitz, nearly one million of them Jews, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, issued a statement condemning the removal of "Maus" in McMinn County schools. He called it "typical of a trend we’re seeing around the country of right-wing politicians attempting to shield themselves from the painful truths of history" and said he hopes to see the school board's decision reversed.

Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, called the McMinn County decision "outrageous" and "really shameful" during a virtual Holocaust Remembrance Day event hosted by the Jewish Federation & Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee.

Cooper said politicians in both parties are "playing with fire, playing with hatred, hoping it elevate them to higher office, help them get reelected."

"My major message is this: Don't play with fire," Cooper said. "There are so many Tennesseans who don't' realize they're playing with fire. But the dry tinder that allows a spark to grow into a flame, and then a bonfire, and then a forest fire? It's there."

Here are some snippets from debates about book banning, Holocaust education and white supremacy on Twitter.

More on banned books: Academic gains, new ideas and empathy: What's at stake when the books students can read are restricted

Maus: A Survivor's Tale Volumes 1 & 2 by Art Spiegelman
Maus: A Survivor's Tale Volumes 1 & 2 by Art Spiegelman

Reflections on history, especially in light of Holocaust Remembrance Day

'The real reason' for the book's removal

Praise for 'Maus'

The issue of book banning

Offers to send copies of 'Maus'

Mel Fronczek is a digital producer for the USA TODAY Network. Reach her on Twitter at @melissafronczek and by email at mxfronczek@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: McMinn County schools receive backlash over 'Maus' book removal