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Whitehall holocaust project leader shares reaction to 'Maus' ban

Posted at 1:45 PM, Feb 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-07 15:45:56-05

"Maus" — an illustrated book about the Holocaust by Art Spiegelman — has reentered the public radar after a Tennessee school board banned it.

"The fact that any kind of Holocaust literature would be considered unsuitable, I think, is an idea people should really seriously think about," said Jeannie Ferriss.

Ferriss — the Whitehall Community Library director and supervisor of the Holocaust Project — says she was shocked when she learned that "Maus" was banned by a Tennessee school board.

"It’s an incredibly moving story and it’s a true story. The author and the artist based it on what happened to his own parents in the Holocaust," said Ferriss.

Art Spiegelman depicted the horrors of the Holocaust by drawing the Nazis as cats and the Jewish prisoners as mice.

The art portrayed the brutal reality of life when his parents were imprisoned in Auschwitz and the consequences of living with the memories.

"To look at a child and say you don’t need to know about this is just—you know, historically, it just paves the way for it to happen again," said Ferriss.

Ferriss says that the censorship of books touched a little close to home when one of her books had been vandalized.

"Not two weeks ago, I had one of my teenagers come up and bring one of my young adult books and someone had torn four pages out of the middle of it," said Ferriss.

Ferriss says that Maus is currently reserved for the Holocaust Project but has seen many requests to check it out.

"In a public library, you have the choice to choose any book in the library," said Ferriss.

Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2020 (source: American Library Association)

  1. George by Alex Gino. Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community.”
  2. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds. Banned and challenged because of the author’s public statements and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people.
  3. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism and because it was thought to promote antipolice views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now.”
  4. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint, it was claimed to be biased against male students, and it included rape and profanity.
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of the author.
  6. Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin. Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote antipolice views.
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience.
  8. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes and their negative effect on students.
  9. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse.
  10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Challenged for profanity, and because it was thought to promote an anti-police message.