Art Spiegelman to speak to Tennessee audience as long ‘Maus’ tail extends into second week


(JTA) — More than 3,000 people are expected to attend a Zoom talk by Art Spiegelman, the author of “Maus,” and hosted by the Jewish Federation of Chattanooga as well as a number of other Jewish and non-Jewish organizations Monday night.

The event is the latest aftershock to follow the earthquake unleashed by a Tennessee school district’s decision to ban Spiegelman’s graphic memoir about the Holocaust from its classrooms.

The books — published in two volumes in the 1980s and 90s — tell the story of the author’s father during the Holocaust. The books, which depict Jews as mice and Nazis as the cats that pursue them, are frequently used to teach students in middle and high school about the Holocaust.

The school board in McMinn County, Tennessee voted unanimously to remove the book from its curriculum last month due to objections raised by board members to the book’s use of curse words and nude drawings.

The decision regarding one of the most iconic books ever written about the Holocaust prompted widespread shock and criticism. Among those who criticized the decision were the bestselling British author Neil Gaiman. “There’s only one kind of people who would vote to ban ‘Maus,’ whatever they are calling themselves these days,” Gaiman said.

In McMinn County, a local Episcopal church said it would host a discussion of the book Feb. 3 that would include discussion about the complicity of many churches in the systematic murder of Jews during the Holocaust, as well as modern-day antisemitism.

The ban also led some bookstores to give away copies of “Maus” for free and has sent Spiegelman himself on something of a renewed speaking tour about the book, the first volume of which was originally published in 1986, with appearances on cable news shows. The publicity for the books generated by the banning has even caused the books to temporarily sell out at some bookstores, including on Amazon.

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