US school district has voted to ban a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust due to “inappropriate language” and an illustration of a nude woman, according to minutes from a board meeting.
Art Spiegelman won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for the work that tells the story of his Jewish parents living in 1940s Poland and depicts him interviewing his father about his experiences as a Holocaust survivor.
In an interview, he told CNBC he was “baffled” by the school board’s decision and called the action “Orwellian”.
“It’s leaving me with my jaw open, like, ‘What?’” he said.
The minutes from the school board meeting indicate objections over some of the language used, and director of schools Lee Parkison initially suggested redacting it “to get rid of the eight curse words and the picture of the woman that was objected to”.
The nude woman is drawn as a mouse. In the graphic novel, Jews are drawn as mice and the Nazis are drawn as cats.
“It shows people hanging, it shows them killing kids, why does the educational system promote this kind of stuff? It is not wise or healthy,” school board member Tony Allman said about the book, which was part of the district’s eighth-grade English language arts curriculum.
Instructional supervisor Julie Goodin, a former history teacher, said the graphic novel was a good way to depict a horrific event.
“It’s hard for this generation, these kids don’t even know 9/11, they were not even born,” she said.
“Are the words objectionable? Yes, there is no one that thinks they aren’t. But by taking away the first part, it’s not changing the meaning of what he is trying to portray.”
Randi Weingarten, the Jewish president of the American Federation of Teachers, which does not play a role in McMinn County, noted the timing of the news on Twitter – Thursday is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“Yes it is uncomfortable to talk about genocide, but it is our history and educating about it helps us not repeat this horror,” she said.
The board emphasised in the minutes that it did not object to teaching about the Holocaust but some were concerned the work was not age-appropriate.
Although they discussed redacting parts of the book, that led to copyright concerns and board members ultimately decided to look for another book about the subject.