If you’re like me, you had never previously heard of “Maus,” the graphic novel “comic book” that tells the story of the Holocaust using a cast of mice, cats, and other animals to represent the participants in the Holocaust. That’s probably because I don’t read graphic novel comic books, or really, any kind of comic books at the age that I’m at.
However, this thing won a Pulitzer Prize back in 1992.
The book tells the story of author Art Spiegelman and his troubled relationship to his father, a Holocaust survivor. The father, Vladek, in turn, tells stories about his experiences, from the years leading up to World War II to his liberation from the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp. Spiegelman also writes and the absence of his mother, also a camp survivor, who died by suicide when the author was 20 years of age.
Presumably, the author assumed that to anthropomorphize mice and cats as the main characters would make it more palatable for teenagers to consume.
It would have remained ignorant of “Maus” but for the curious decision of the McMinn County Schools in East Tennessee to remove the book from their 8th grade curriculum. (I’d also never heard of McMinn County, but never mind that.) The Board of Trustees cited “rough language,” “unnecessary” profanity and a small drawing of a nude woman drawn as a mouse as reasons for its decision.
A nude woman drawn as a mouse?
Unnecessary profanity, consisting of eight words including the word “damn?”
Seriously, McMinn County School Board?
Of course, the ban immediately invoked the law of unintended consequences. The story became a national story, and then people who had never heard of “Maus” started checking it out of the local library or ordering it online.
McMinn is surely a fine upstanding county filled with a lot of fine upstanding Christain residents, but it really does make you wonder about their priorities. The good folks on the school board — whose vote was an overwhelming 10-0 vote, by the way — think it’s more traumatic for their 8th graders to encounter eight curse words and a nude woman drawn as a mouse than to learn about the horrors of the Holocaust?
The extermination of six million Jews. Yeah, they can handle that. Eight curse words and a nude mouse? That’s too much for their little Christian souls.
And people wonder why I’m an atheist.