Pulitzer Prize Winner Art Spiegelman Speaks Out After School Board Votes To Remove His Book About Holocaust From Curriculum

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Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
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The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a graphic novel about the Holocaust appeared Thursday on CNN after a Tennessee school board removed his book from the curriculum because of its content.

“I’m trying to, like, wrap my brain around it, I moved past total bafflement to try to be tolerant of people who may possibly not be Nazis, maybe,” author Art Spiegelman said ofvun CNN’s “New Day.”

“They’re totally focused on some bad words that are in the book. I can’t believe the word ‘damn’ would get the book jettisoned out of the school on its own,” he continued. “I think they’re so myopic in their focus and they’re so afraid of what’s implied and having to defend the decision to teach ‘Maus’ as part of the curriculum that it lead to this kind of daffily myopic response.”

The book was based on conversations and interviews between author Spiegelman and his father, a Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust. In the book, the Nazis are depicted as cats and the victims are mice.

The McMinn County school board in Tennessee voted 10-0 to remove “Maus” from its curriculum due to profanity and nudity that the board found to be inappropriate for eighth-graders. The nudity in the book is focused on depicting how Holocaust victims were forced to strip down during their internment at Nazi concentration camps.

“I’ve read it and read through all of it… I liked it. There were [other] parts that were completely unnecessary,” one board member commented, referring to a father describing losing his virginity and a woman cutting herself with a blade, according to the minutes from the meeting.

The school board strongly considered redacting elements of the book before it was taught, according to CNN. However, there were copyright concerns raised by board members. (RELATED: Catholic School Bans ‘Harry Potter’ Books Because It Might Conjure ‘Evil Spirits’)

The school board did not discuss banning the book from school premises, discouraging students from reading it or removing it from school libraries.

One board member noted that the book would remain part of the curriculum if a suitable replacement could not be found, but he was reportedly unsure of exactly what would happen in that situation.

In response to the removal of the book, Spiegelman sent news outlets an image of a bookmark he designed with the phrase, “keep your nose in a book — and keep other people’s noses out of which books you choose to stick your nose into!” according to the Daily Beast.

This is the latest in a series of book removals by school boards as parents rally to have sexually explicit materials removed from school libraries. The American Associations of School Librarians has said that they feel removing books containing nude or “pornographic images” from libraries is a negative.