Tennessee’s ban on “Maus” and the prevention of education of antisemitism in schools

Jewel Lee

“I do believe that ‘Maus’ is an important book to read in schools because it’s really detailed and goes into depth about the Holocaust while still managing to stay super interesting,” said Tosa East sophomore Zainab Zehra. “Reading this novel may help many people understand the importance of the Holocaust more than what we have learned in class.”

The book “Maus”, a novel that East students have been reading as of late, has recently become controversial—particularly with Tennessee schools.

“Maus”, a true Holocaust story told from the perspective of Art Spiegelman’s–the book’s author–father, Vladek Spiegelman, has received censorship from the Tennessee McMinn County School Board. The vote for this ban was unanimous, immediately removing the novel from school curriculums.

It was decided by McMinn County that the book had contained curse words and nude figures that were “too inappropriate” for 13 year-olds. The novel shows the Holocaust in the eyes of a Jew, death being everywhere they went and living conditions being brutal. “Maus” illustrates the truth of what it was like to be a Jew during WWII and the effects of allowing racism and antisemitism to manifest further. A member of the Board, Tony Allman, had even asked why such a book should be promoted.

This graphic novel has recently been read in East High School as assigned by students’ English teachers. The purpose of the book’s recent assignment was to provide a more interesting story than there had been in previous school years. Not only did this book prove to be interesting to students of East High, but it also taught important topics to the readers all while being engaging.

A couple students had been asked about their thoughts on the book and its importance.

“It provides an insight into the Holocaust and what Polish jews had to do to survive,” states sophomore Zen Granger at East when interviewed about the book’s significance. “I feel like it is stupid that it is banned because it is a good insight into the Holocaust and proves such in a unique way that makes it easier to understand. I feel that [the book’s ban] will add to growing ignorance towards the Holocaust and if you don’t learn history, you probably will end up repeating it.”

“I don’t think any books should be banned in general. Books give us a better understanding of the world around us, even if the characters are portrayed as animals, like in Maus,” an anonymous sophomore had also mentioned.

The voices at East have shared that this story is an important book to be read in schools. Many students have expressed their different opinions on the novel, whether they liked it or felt neutral about it; but regardless and above all, they’ve all stated that yes, “Maus” is an influential read for teenagers and older. The teachings of antisemitism are significant in preventing a potential repeat of history, from what it sounds like.