Bay Area Comic Shop Donates Copies of Banned Holocaust Graphic Novel ‘Maus’

Earlier this month, a school board in Tennessee voted unanimously to ban the teaching of “Maus,” an iconic graphic novel that depicts the Holocaust, with Jews depicted as mice and Nazis as cats.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel was published in 1980, written and illustrated by Art Spiegelman. It was removed from the McMinn County curriculum due to complaints about profanity—specifically the word “damn”—and the depiction of a dead naked mouse; the scene was representative of the death of Spiegelman’s own mother. The objection, at least openly, did not seem to be about the depiction of the Holocaust.

In an interview with CNN, Spiegelman expressed his disbelief.

“I went beyond total bewilderment, to try to be tolerant of people who might not be Nazis. Because after reading the school board meeting transcript, the issue is bigger and dumber than that,” says Spiegelman, who spoke between strokes of a vape pen.

Ryan Higgins, owner of Sunnyvale’s Comics Conspiracy, heard the news and thought it was a bizarre decision.

“You can’t teach the Holocaust without showing the most graphic images humanity has ever seen. [“Maus”] is nothing compared to reality. It’s just mind-boggling that they’re taking it away,” Higgins says. “It’s one of the most acclaimed graphic novels of all time, it’s just a landmark work. It’s been taught in schools, libraries and colleges for decades at this point.”

In response, Higgins tweeted an offer to donate up to 100 copies of “Maus” to families in the McMinn County area. It’s not the first time he’s made such a promise – last year he made a similar offer when Texas pulled political graphic novels ‘Why the Last Man’ and ‘V for Vendetta’ from some libraries.

This time around, the tweet went viral, with over 11,700 likes and 3,442 retweets. He said Comics Conspiracy was sold out on the few copies they had, and a few dozen people responded asking for copies, including messages from students and parents.

“What was fascinating were the responses from the students. Their embarrassment, which they hate to be lumped together with the potentially racist issues of removing books like this,” Higgins says. “They said the teachers were caught off guard, the teachers were trying to fight this. It doesn’t seem to be the will of the people in the area.”

Daniel K. Denny