Story by Chloe Mason, Reporter
It is hard to believe that a drawing of swearing, naked mice is the tipping point for why a school district is no longer teaching students a prominent piece of literature about the Holocaust, but that is exactly the case in regards to “Maus” by Art Spiegelman.
The graphic novel has come under criticism by a Tennessee school district which has voted to ban the Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel for the use of curse words and the portrayal of a naked woman. “Maus,” a graphic novel recounting the experiences of Spiegelman’s father during the Holocaust, depicts the Jewish people as mice attempting to escape from feline Nazis and is a very poignant depiction of the horrors of Nazi Germany.
“Maus” is a depiction of the horrors of the Holocaust and includes what life was like for people in concentration camps. Speigelman’s father is shown to be a flawed, yet understandable, person, who explicitly states that his survival was mostly due to luck. Many other Holocaust narratives frame survival as a moral victory, do not show the camps themselves, or end with the reassurance that the people in the camps lived “happily ever after” when they were freed.
While Speigelman’s parents survived Nazi Germany and were able to reunite, their story does not really end when the Nazi regime falls. Speigelman’s mother committed suicide years later, likely due to the lasting trauma, and Speigelman himself lost almost his entire extended family and his brother. The book shows the lasting effects of this tragedy on those who lived through it. By banning the book due to it being too ‘mature’ for students, it undermines the hardships the Speigelman family endured, and what many Jewish people continue to be affected by to this day, seemingly saying that their experiences should not be discussed.
Professor Dawson, who taught “Maus” in her course on comics and graphic novels, is strongly against the banning of books like these. While many may state that this book is too “mature” for eighth graders, Dawson argues that the best way for those students to be able to read books like “Maus,” ones which cause the reader to ask difficult and serious questions, is to have a trained educator helping them better understand it. By allowing a student to ask questions in class with their peers instead of reading the book alone, they will be able to better understand the nuances of the novel.
Banning books simply because they are considered to be too mature is not helping students, but hindering them, and indeed stopping many from accessing pieces of influential literature. “Maus” is a story which uses its art to show the experiences of a real person who lived through one of the darkest parts of human history, and it is a novel which is crucial to read when understanding just how much the Holocaust affected those who experienced it. It is not a happy book, but it is a necessary one, and one which should not be banned just because it addresses difficult topics.