A Tennessee school district has banned a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust over its violence, nudity and swearing.
The McMinn County School Board voted unanimously to remove Art Spiegelman’s book, “Maus,” from classrooms on Jan. 10, according to meeting minutes.
The book, completed in 1991, tells the story of the author’s father and his experiences as a Holocaust survivor in comic book form.
The school board cited its graphic scenes and profanity as among its objections to the reading.
“I am not denying it was horrible, brutal and cruel,” school board member Tony Allman said of the Nazi genocide that killed 6 million Jews.
He argued that the book should be censored to make it more palatable. “It’s like when you’re watching TV and a cuss word or nude scene comes on — it would be the same movie without it,” he said.
“It shows people hanging, it shows them killing kids,” Allman said. “Why does the educational system promote this kind of stuff? It is not wise or healthy.”
Board member Mike Cochran agreed. “This idea that we have to have this kind of material in the class in order to teach history, I don’t buy it,” he said.
“We can tell them exactly what happened, but we don’t need all the nakedness and other stuff,” he added.
Director of Schools Lee Parkison also suggested redacting it “to get rid of the eight curse words and the picture of the woman that was objected to,” referring to a drawing of a nude woman drawn as a mouse.
Julia Goodin, a former history teacher and an instructional supervisor for McMinn County, defended the book.
“It’s hard for this generation, these kids don’t even know 9/11, they were not even born,” Goodin said. “Are the words objectionable? Yes, there is no one that thinks they aren’t. But by taking away the first part, it’s not changing the meaning of what he is trying to portray.”
Melasawn Knight, another instructional supervisor, agreed.
“People did hang from trees, people did commit suicide and people were killed, over 6 million were murdered,” she said. “I think the author is portraying that because it is a true story about his father that lived through that.”
The board briefly considered writing to Spiegelman for permission to redact the book, but ultimately voted 10-0 to remove it from the classroom.
Spiegelman, 73, told CNBC he was “baffled” by the decision.
“It’s leaving me with my jaw open, like, ‘What?’” he told the network, adding that its removal of the book was “Orwellian.”
McMinn County, some 50 miles northeast of Chattanooga, is home to 53,000 people according to the most recent census.