January 28, 2022

No more banned books!


Book banning is no novelty in American culture. It has ebbed and flowed throughout society since the dawn of books. When we examine the patterns behind banning books, it always comes down to fear: the fear of education, the fear of ideas, the fear of losing control of a comfortable society. 

With this information, it’s shocking that book banning in America is on the rise, according to an NBC News article. And a quaint East Tennessee county added the newest novel to the banned book club list.

Maus by Art Spiegelman, a Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, will be removed from McMinn County’s curriculum. The school board unanimously voted for its removal claiming the content was unfit for 8th grade students, and it conflicted with the school’s standards. 

If you’re not familiar with this graphic novel, you can dive into it here. And after a deeper look into the graphic novel, one can clearly conclude that this is a mild recount of Holocaust survivor’s story. So, why is McMinn County banning Maus? The only answer is it’s an attempt to control its youth, to avoid hard conversations (uncomfortable conversations), and to maintain power. 

I do understand where these concerned Tennessee parents are coming from. It’s natural to want to shield your children from coming too close, too soon, to a broken world. But at 14 years old, students should be reading about hard topics. Discomfort is an integral piece of growing up. Teachers cannot exclude the idea of the Holocaust, in this example, because it makes non-Jewish students uncomfortable, or makes them fearful.

Maus is only a drop in the bucket of banned books. Among them are The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, and Grapes of Wrath—all important pieces of literature that shape student’s world views.

Banning Maus has created an outrage across the state and even the country. In the wake of Holocaust Rememberance Day, McMinn County has stained its reputation by explicitly suppressing knowledge because the themes are not “appropriate.” In repressing this book, that school board is only creating a bigger question mark around the subject and perpetuating ignorance. 

As senator express their rage in this book banning frenzy, I can only hope these people— parents, teachers, colleagues—listen and act responsibly.