‘Maus’ Tops Amazon Bestseller List After Tennessee School Board Pulls Graphic Novel

From The Wall Street Journal:

Maus,” a graphic novel about the Holocaust published decades ago, reached the top of Amazon.com Inc.’s bestsellers list after a Tennessee school board’s decision to remove the book spurred criticism nationwide.

“The Complete Maus,” which includes the first and second installments of Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer-Prize winning graphic novel, sat at the top of Amazon’s bestseller list Monday morningIt later moved to the No. 2 spot. Separate copies of the installments, published in 1986 and 1991, respectively, were also among the top 10 bestselling books on the retail giant’s website.

Attention to the graphic novel was renewed this month when the McMinn County Board of Education in Athens, Tenn., voted unanimously to remove “Maus” from its eighth-grade curriculum. The 10-member board cited “vulgar” words that appeared in the book as well as subjects they deemed inappropriate for eighth-graders.  

The school board’s Jan. 10 decision sparked widespread criticism. In an interview with CNBC last week, Mr. Spiegelman said he was baffled by the move, calling it “Orwellian.” A representative for Mr. Spiegelman said he wasn’t available for further comment Monday.

. . . .

In “Maus,” Mr. Spiegelman examines the horrors of the Holocaust and his parents’ journey of survival, depicting Nazis as cats and Jewish people as mice. The nearly 300-page graphic novel received a special Pulitzer Prize in 1992.

The McMinn County Board of Education said the graphic novel “was simply too adult-oriented” and cited the use of profanity, nudity, and depictions of violence and suicide. In a statement last week, the board said it doesn’t dispute the importance of teaching students about the Holocaust and said it asked administrators to find more age-appropriate texts to “accomplish the same educational goal.”

“The atrocities of the Holocaust were shameful beyond description, and we all have an obligation to ensure that younger generations learn from its horrors to ensure that such an event is never repeated,” the board said in a statement last week. “We simply do not believe that this work is an appropriate text for our students to study.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

18 thoughts on “‘Maus’ Tops Amazon Bestseller List After Tennessee School Board Pulls Graphic Novel”

  1. Well, at least they’re not crying censorship. I’ll note that 8th grade students only have so much time to read novels, and there are hundreds or thousands of novels that might be appropriate, so school districts should have wide leeway to pick what suits them.

    Maus wouldn’t be one of my picks, but I probably won’t complain – my daughter read Maus in 9th grade (on her own, but it’s on a local school district’s reading list), and liked it. Since she’s pretty level headed, I’ll have to ask her if she thinks it’s appropriate for 8th grade English class.

    • Still in the library, apparently – just not on the required list.

      Myself, I would recommend “I Have Lived a Thousand Years” as my top pick. Probably followed by “The Boy In the Striped Pajamas.” For that age group, anyway. Wiesel’s “Night” for older ones.

      • She read Night, too. I’ll just say Huck Finn needs to be on the reading list some time along the line (unless the teachers would butcher it).

      • “Night” was assigned reading in my 9th grade class, so that should pass muster. And a little later I read Corrie ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place,” which should also pass muster.

        For kids in elementary school, there’s “Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry. I read it, then years later the ten-year-old girl I was babysitting was riveted by it, too.

        I never heard of the other two books you mentioned, so I’ll check them out.

    • The criticism sounded reasonable enough — you don’t usually require eighth graders to see pictures of nude people. Although I haven’t read “Maus,” so I’m confused by how the nudity charge applies to mice and cats.

      With the violence angle, I can see how a visual depiction could be more intense than just reading a prose book. There are books I’ve read, e.g., “Aztec,” that I wouldn’t want to experience in visual form because I avoid gore. I was in ninth grade when I read that one, but I wouldn’t blame parents if they objected to putting that book on a required reading list.

      • The criticism sounded reasonable enough — you don’t usually require eighth graders to see pictures of nude people.

        How about nude mice?

        • That’s why I asked about the mice and the cats. I genuinely don’t understand the significance of the nudity in the context of animal characters. But the complaint was made, so I’m wondering if there’s a sane reason why.

  2. Every eighth grader I’ve met knows more than eight swear words. That’s a silly reason to ban a book. And taking offense to mouse nudity confuses me. Obviously, I haven’t read the book, though.

    I’m glad that banning Maus backfired.

    • Sigh. Not banned. Removed from the required curriculum. Still in the library.

      There are much better books that cover the Holocaust – in another post, I mentioned I Have Lived a Thousand Years and The Boy In the Striped Pajamas. Those are only two of many.

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