Last week’s news read like a bad attempt at an ironic joke. local school board in Tennessee bans a book about Nazis — noted for their book banning and burning.
Maus, the Pulitzer-Prize winning graphic novel, depicts atrocities experienced by Jews imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps. Art Spiegelman’s based his work on extensive personal interviews with his father, a survivor of the Nazi prison camps.
None of the school board members caught the irony of their action, though, as they unanimously decided to “protect” local school children from the first — and so far only — graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize. Their objections? a few foul words and a depiction of nude female — a nude female MOUSE, that is!
So, out goes a powerful depiction of the greatest historical tragedy of the 20th Century.
Their reaction to minor aspects of this incredible book would be almost laughable if it didn’t result in official suppression of uncomfortable truths. While the school board pledged to substitute something else to fill the gap, they chose not to do so, voting unanimously for the ban.
I take book banning personally, having written a poem that got our high school literary magazine censored. I’ve celebrated Banned Books Week (last week of September) here before. Rather than reiterate all the reasons banning books is stupid and counter-productive, I’d rather supply you with a few reading lists of banned materials. And this bit of advice from a noted author:
Any book worth banning is a book worth reading.
Lists of Banned/Challenged Books & Authors
AKA Great Reading Lists
- Authors banned by the Nazis
The Nazis started burning books they found objectionable as soon as they took power in 1933, later circulating lists of banned authors. Authors might be banned for political views such as communism or pacifism, while others were banned due to their Jewish descent. Some authors had their entire catalog banned while others only had some banned.
- American Library Association’s Top 100 Frequently Challenged Books, 2010-2019
Here’s a fun game: how many of these banned books have you read? I count 9 for myself, including the Holy Bible— although I’ve only read parts of that one. Still, seems like I’ve got some catching up to do!
- Recent Top 5 Targets of conservative book challenges
Parallel to the banning of Maus but more sinister is the current drive to suppress books telling diverse versions of history many Americans — too many —would prefer to ignore. It almost seems like some of the white people unafraid to show their racist hatred in 1960 as they cursed young Ruby Bridges for integrating Louisiana’s elementary schools are doing their damnedest to make sure their grandchildren don’t have to read about their hateful actions.
The good news? Maus soared to the top of the best-seller list on Amazon due to the small-mindedness of the censoring school board. In fact, the complete version is completely sold out on Amazon! Not to worry, though — you can still buy it in two separate volumes , as Spiegelman first published them (Volumes 1 and 2), or even this two-volume set.
I read where some students are forming their own book clubs, using lists of banned books as reading guides. Reminds me of a fellow who said his grandmother tried to hide certain “scandalous” passages in the Bible by gluing the pages together. “Made a perfect bookmark so that later, I could just go look up the ‘good parts’ in another Bible.”
I also love seeing this response from one bookstore.
Me, I gotta get to reading some more of the banned books — that’s always a good recommendation.