Tenn. County School Board Bans Pulitzer-Winning Book About Holocaust, Citing Nudity and Profanity

"I’m kind of baffled by this,” Art Spiegelman told CNBC of a school board's ban of his graphic novel, Maus, which retells his Jewish parents’ experience in Nazi concentration camps


A school board in Tennessee has controversially removed a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust from its eighth-grade classrooms, citing concerns about female nudity and profanity.

According to the New York Times, Tennessee's McMinn County School Board voted to remove the graphic novel, Maus, from its curriculum on Jan. 10 after members unanimously agreed its material was not appropriate for students.

In the book, illustrator and author Art Spiegelman retells the story of his Polish parents' experience during the Holocaust while portraying Jewish people as mice and Nazis as cats.

The first volume of Maus was published in 1986 and Spiegelman won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992, a year after the publication of its second volume. Maus is the only graphic novel to ever be awarded a Pulitzer honor, The Week reported.

A representative of the school board did not immediately return PEOPLE's request for comment.

In meeting minutes published by the Washington Post, the school board cited illustrations of nudity and "rough, objectionable language" in their 10-0 vote to ban the book.

US comic book artist Art Spiegelman

Before the vote, Julie Goodin, a former history teacher, attempted to persuade board members to keep the book in classrooms.

"There is nothing pretty about the Holocaust," Goodin told the board, according to the document. "Are the words objectionable? Yes, there is no one that thinks they aren't."

"I just think this is a grave starting point for our teachers," she later said. "I am very passionate about history, and I would hate to rob our kids of this opportunity. Are we going to be teaching these words outside of this book as vocabulary words? No."

In an interview with CNBC, Spiegelman said he didn't know about the ban until it became a viral topic on social media this week.

"I'm kind of baffled by this," the 73-year-old said. "It's leaving me with my jaw open, like, 'What?' "

The board's vote to ban Maus came just ahead of Thursday's International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which commemorates the more than 6 million people who were killed by Nazis from 1933 to 1945.

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On Wednesday, the US Holocaust Museum defended Maus as a critical way to educate students about the atrocities of Nazi Germany.

"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," they said.

The organization added: "Teaching about the Holocaust using books like Maus can inspire students to think critically about the past and their own roles and responsibilities today."

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