A RURAL Tennessee school board’s decision to remove Maus, the celebrated graphic novel about the Holocaust, from its curriculum has sparked a backlash.
A nearby comic-book store is pledging to give away the book for free to every student in the county, a local church plans to hold a discussion on its themes and a college professor intends to offer free classes on the book.
Nirvana Comics hailed Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel as a “must-read for everyone”.
“Maus was a book that opened my eyes and changed my worldview, because I grew up in a small town in Tennessee where I honestly don’t know if to this day there is a single Jewish person,” Nirvana Comics store owner Rich Davis told the JTA.
He said he had become “immediately angry” when he’d heard that the school board of nearby McMinn County had voted 10-0 last month to remove the book from its middle-school classes, citing its use of profanity, nudity and depictions of “killing kids” as reasons for its inappropriateness.
“I’m sure they thought they were protecting their children,” Davis said about the parents and school board members who had initially raised concerns about the book’s content.
But, he added, he believed “they’re actually harming their children … If Maus offends you, then you certainly don’t know very much about the Holocaust.”
Davis initially planned to loan copies of the book to students “like a library”. But as word of the store’s intent spread, those plans expanded. A GoFundMe has raised more than $6000 to date, and Penguin Random House has agreed to sell the store 500 additional copies at a reduced price.
When Star Trek: The Next Generation actor Wil Wheaton shared Nirvana’s story on social media, “that’s when it really, really exploded,” Davis said. “That doesn’t surprise me because Star Trek fans are some of the most amazing and committed fans on the planet.”
In addition, Davis said, he was in talks with a group of “Jewish attorneys and businessmen” whom he declined to name, but who he said were interested in purchasing an additional 1000 copies of the book for free giveaways to McMinn County students.
Meanwhile, a local Episcopal church has announced it would be conducting a discussion of the book this week, including addressing the complicity of many churches in the Holocaust.
And Scott Denham, a Holocaust and German Studies professor at Davidson College in North Carolina, has launched an online course about the book specifically intended for 8th grade and high school students in McMinn County.