“McMinn County Bans Maus, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Holocaust Book,” ran the headline in the TN Holler, a progressive Tennessee-based news website. Soon viral outrage followed, and the story made its way to CNBC and CNN. Arthur Spiegelman, who authored the graphic novel Maus—based on his father’s own experience in the Shoah—declared that the McMinn County school board’s decision had “the breath of autocracy and fascism about it.” But the book was not banned, writes Thomas Balazs, as he attempts to cut through some of the hysteria:
First things first: Maus is not being “banned.” The McMinn County school board simply voted to remove it from the middle-school Holocaust curriculum. That’s not a ban, it’s a routine curriculum change. The Holocaust will continue to be taught, and Maus will be replaced with another text. Even if McMinn County removes Maus from the middle-school library (and it’s not clear they plan to do so), that still wouldn’t constitute a ban. They’re not saying kids can’t read it or that bookstores can’t sell it. They don’t have the power to ban Maus even if they wanted to. It’s freely available on the Internet to those who know where to look and can be found in nearly every library and bookstore in the country.
I’m a writer. I’m an English professor. I’m a comic-book lover. I’m a Jew and a [child of a] Holocaust survivor. I understand perfectly why Maus is great. It was important in my life. It helped me to understand my father, who was a lot like Spiegelman’s. That doesn’t mean I get to insist that every county in the country include the book in its eighth-grade Holocaust program. I don’t know the kids in McMinn County, but I doubt they’ll become Nazis because they didn’t get to read Maus until ninth grade.
Nor will they become degenerates if they read it in seventh grade. But it’s not my call (or yours) unless you live in that county, and it’s certainly not anti-Semitic or book-burning to replace one Holocaust text with another. Even on International Holocaust Day. Even if it’s Maus.
So, why all the weeping and gnashing of teeth? Some elements on the left clearly want to use this issue in order to discredit recent parental efforts to remove inflammatory texts about race or explicit sex-education materials from school curricula. . . . The debates about critical race theory and sexually explicit graphic novels have nothing to do with Jews or the Holocaust, and there’s something cynical and exploitative about political attempts to link these controversies.