Tennessee School Board Has Lost Their Way With the Banning of Maus

By: Julia Ordaz

The graphic novel Maus was just banned by a Tennessee school board “because” of its profanity and nudity. Maus was created by Art Spiegelman, and follows the story of his parents survival as Jewish people in the Nazi nation. Spiegelman provides an extra perspective on the horrors of the Holocaust, yet the school board still banned it. Many books in school curriculums provide graphic descriptions and profanity, so why was Maus specifically targeted? 

Literature is a powerful tool that can teach whole generations lasting lessons. The director of the education initiative at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Paul Regelbrugge, spoke to the Washington Post about the school board’s decision. In his interview, Regelbrugge claimed that teaching youths about history’s horrors can create the thought, “How will I, in light of this knowledge, stand up against injustice?” 

Similar to other banned books, Maus tells the story of oppression and cruelty- both realities of this world. These books like Lord of the Flies and The Hate U Give discuss real problems that we must learn to change and grow past. Censorship is a way for the group on top to erase all other sides of the story. They erase the bad and ugly because they just don’t want to see their ancestor’s actions. Author and psychotherapist, Resmaa Menakem, once said that “Trauma, decontextualized in a people, can look like culture.” This means that viewing actions that affect whole groups of people from the outside will just look like destructive habits. How do we change these “destructive habits ?” Look at history.

Historical trauma creates new traits in a people. These traits were either for survival or because they were pushed into a pattern of abuse that continues to this day. Without knowing history we remain ignorant and allow these patterns to continue. 

There’s literally a book (Fahrenheit 451) about why we should not ban books. Fahrenheit 451’s message is that banning books destroys an outlet of knowledge and the censorship allows humanity to become corrupt with ignorance.

We need to learn about history to understand how and why things happened and what the impacts were. Finding out the motivations of fascists can help people know to look out for the signs and actions that should not be acceptable. Learning about history helps us to move forward and not repeat our mistakes. 

It is not okay to ban books. Whether it’s good or bad, each book has a message and it’s up to the reader to choose how to interpret it. 

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