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.
"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.
Reflections on history, especially in light of Holocaust Remembrance Day
1/ Maus has played a vital role in educating about the Holocaust through sharing detailed and personal experiences of victims and survivors. On the eve of International #HolocaustRemembranceDay, it is more important than ever for students to learn this history.
— US Holocaust Museum (@HolocaustMuseum) January 27, 2022
Maus is an important tool for educating the next generation about the Holocaust. Now more than ever, it's completely inappropriate to ban educational tools that combat antisemitism.#NeverAgain means investing in Holocaust education, not banning it.https://t.co/xivg7WR2Y3
— Jewish Dems (@USJewishDems) January 27, 2022
We cannot remain silent while people in this country are trying to erase this history. https://t.co/cU5QNpYi9Y
— Nina Turner (@ninaturner) January 27, 2022
This #HolocaustMemorialDay consider the line, Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Only yesterday the Pulitzer-winning graphic novel, Maus, was banned by a Tennessee School Board, spuriously citing language & nudity. So, book burnings next?#NeverForget pic.twitter.com/XCsHLhQFTj
— Marshall Julius (@MarshallJulius) January 27, 2022
Tennessee school board bans MAUS by Art Spiegelman, the iconic and ground-breaking graphic novel about the holocaust.
Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.
I have no adequate words. The pain & suffering of the Jewish people shouldn’t be censored.
— Jarrett J. Krosoczka (@StudioJJK) January 27, 2022
'The real reason' for the book's removal
For those incredulous over the banning of #Maus, just remember the real reason. It's not cuss words/nudity. it's anything that impugns the common enemy of white supremacy. Its a gateway into squashing anything that might hold accountable or responsible those who profess it.
— Michael W. Twitty (@KosherSoul) January 27, 2022
Praise for 'Maus'
— John Ray Clemmons (@JRClemmons) January 28, 2022
Maus is the most important history text I ever read. I know it's a graphic novel, but it made me feel the weight of tragedy more deeply than anything else before or since. It should be in every curriculum on the Holocaust, and here it is being banned. So so disturbing. https://t.co/Y3gdPUWeK1
— David Milner (@DaveMilbo) January 26, 2022
Likewise, Mike. A joke that this would be banned.
As a young Jewish kid, MAUS helped me understand the atrocities of the Holocaust in a way I hadn't before. https://t.co/J42O44DB6u
— Brendan Marks (@BrendanRMarks) January 26, 2022
Not only were the 2 MAUS books the most detailed account I’d ever read about the holocaust when I 1st encountered them, but they lead me to more graphic novels, teaching me that a story can come in any format.
This is shameful.
Go read a banned book! https://t.co/UWZnnQ5CQv
— Rebekah McKendry, PhD (@RebekahMcKendry) January 27, 2022
The issue of book banning
When the story from Texas broke about needing to teach "both sides" of the Holocaust, it was walked back and people were told that they were being dramatic and overreacting etc.
Today, Maus was reportedly banned by a school board in Tennessee: https://t.co/zwxYbQmz1z
— Emily 🗣️ Tamkin (@emilyctamkin) January 26, 2022
A school board in America banned Toni Morrison’s masterpiece The Bluest Eye. And now another board has banned the brilliant graphic novel Maus, and this is happening on the eve of #HolocaustMemorialDay Deeply disturbing the ongoing war against books, memory, knowledge & diversity pic.twitter.com/sOUzdkYoxM
— Elif Shafak (@Elif_Safak) January 27, 2022
Offers to send copies of 'Maus'
As I've offered before with other banned comics, I'll donate up to 100 copies of The Complete Maus to any family in the Mcminn County area in Tennessee. Just DM me your address! pic.twitter.com/ptmdjmwYE5
— Ryan Higgins (@RyanHigginsRyan) January 26, 2022
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: McMinn County schools receive backlash over 'Maus' book removal