On Monday, Art Spiegelman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the iconic Holocaust book “Maus,” blamed authoritarian political trends and petty parental grievances for the Holocaust-study book’s removal from a Tennessee school’s curriculum last month.
Spiegelman spoke during a remote call Monday night with representatives of Jewish and Christian groups in Tennessee, which was attended by over 10,000 viewers who tuned into the discussion.
During the discussion, Spiegelman said he had pored over the school board meeting’s minutes to discern their motive for removing the book from the school’s curriculum. He said he believes they did so due to politics, an authoritarian bent and a desire to whitewash history, as well as petty grievances. He pointed out that the school district had no problems with “Maus” until very recently.
“I’m distressed to find that’s changed in the midst of strong political headwinds that are burning books, literally,” he said. “They are trying to readjust our curricula to terrify librarians, book readers and teachers.”
“Even if they say they’re willing to teach the Holocaust, they want a fuzzier, warmer, gentler Holocaust that shows how great the Americans were,” he said. “This is a dangerous world. It’s getting more dangerous. Are you going to try to confront it in a way that’s useful, or hide your head in myths and stories that are heartwarming?” he said.
Speaking of why parents backed the removal, Spiegelman said, “I believe this is all about parents wanting to control their kids in the guise of protecting them,” he said. “It’s certainly about Jews but it’s not just about Jews. It’s about ‘othering,’ and what’s going on now is about controlling. Controlling what kids can look at, what kids can read, what kids can see in a way that makes them less able to think, not more, and it takes the form of the criticisms from this board where they say ‘He shouldn’t be talking to his parents like that.’”