maus, texas book ban

Prize-winning graphic novel "Maus" is being banned in some states.

The topic of censorship has been a heated one recently. Making the most headlines is the proposed book ban in Texas, with nearly 100 school districts calling to remove library books that deal with race, racism, sex, gender and sexuality.

NBC listed 50 titles that parents have tried to ban in Texas, and the list includes highly acclaimed works such as “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, “The Perks of Being A Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky and “The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison.

But it’s not just Texas. Book bans are spreading across the country so fast, you’d think we’re living out Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.” Which, ironically, doesn't seem to be prohibited yet (this time, at least).

One comic shop owner decided to take a stand by sending free copies of a graphic novel deemed “too graphic” for eighth grade curriculums. And because of his actions, others are following suit.


When Ryan Higgins, owner of Sunnyvale’s Comics Conspiracy (cool shop name), heard the news that Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize winning “Maus” was pulled from the curriculum by the McMinn County Board of Education in Tennessee, he was baffled.

"You can't teach the Holocaust without showing the most graphic imagery that humanity has ever seen,” Higgins told SFGATE. “["Maus"] is nothing compared to the actual thing. It's just mind-boggling that they'd remove it. It's one of the most acclaimed graphic novels of all time, it's just a seminal work. It's been taught in schools and libraries and colleges for decades at this point."

Maus” depicts the story of Spiegelman’s parents experiencing the Holocaust and their imprisonment at Auschwitz. In the comic, Jews are represented by mice, Germans by cats, Poles by pigs, Americans by dogs and Swedish by deer. Like "Watchmen" and "The Dark Knight Returns," “Maus” played a pivotal role in bringing mature comics to the mainstream.

So why was it banned? Over complaints of profanity and nudity. In particular, a dead nude female mouse, in a scene that reflected the suicide of Spiegelman’s mother.

In USA TODAY, Spiegelman himself called the decision a “culture war that’s gotten totally out of control.”

In anti-Orwellian fashion, Higgins offered to donate up to 100 copies of “Maus” to any interested family in the McMinn County area.

Though Higgins has made similar offers in the past, this time around, the pledge went viral. And now it’s a full-blown movement. By Sunday, the complete edition of "Maus" had nabbed the No. 1 spot on the Amazon books best sellers list.

Nirvana Comics in Knoxville has created a fundraiser to help provide more copies to students. Its goal was to raise $20,000. So far, it has raised more than $100,000.

On the fundraiser website, Nirvana Comics hailed Spiegelman’s work as a “masterpiece,” and “one of the most important, impactful and influential graphic novels of all time.”

“We believe it is a must read for everyone,” the store stated.

For Higgins, standing up for impactful works of art is more than fighting the status quo. It’s about being a force for good.

The shop owner told the The Washington Post: ”When thought-provoking comic books and graphic novels are banned, this hits my world. Sending out free copies of ‘Maus’ is something I can do. If even one kid reads it and it changes their world, that’s a wonderful thing.”

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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Matthew McConaughey in 2019.

Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey made a heartfelt plea for Americans to “do better” on Tuesday after a gunman murdered 19 children and 2 adults at Robb Elementary School in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas.

Uvalde is a small town of about 16,000 residents approximately 85 miles west of San Antonio. The actor grew up in Uvalde until he was 11 years old when his family moved to Longview, 430 miles away.

The suspected murderer, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was killed by law enforcement at the scene of the crime. Before the rampage, Ramos allegedly shot his grandmother after a disagreement.

“As you all are aware there was another mass shooting today, this time in my home town of Uvalde, Texas,” McConaughey wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. “Once again, we have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights our freedoms grant us.”

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Joy

50-years ago they trade a grilled cheese for a painting. Now it's worth a small fortune.

Irene and Tony Demas regularly traded food at their restaurant in exchange for crafts. It paid off big time.

Photo by Gio Bartlett on Unsplash

Painting traded for grilled cheese worth thousands.

The grilled cheese at Irene and Tony Demas’ restaurant was truly something special. The combination of freshly baked artisan bread and 5-year-old cheddar was enough to make anyone’s mouth water, but no one was nearly as devoted to the item as the restaurant’s regular, John Kinnear.

Kinnear loved the London, Ontario restaurant's grilled cheese so much that he ordered it every single day, though he wouldn’t always pay for it in cash. The Demases were well known for bartering their food in exchange for odds and ends from local craftspeople and merchants.

“Everyone supported everyone back then,” Irene told the Guardian, saying that the couple would often trade free soup and a sandwich for fresh flowers. Two different kinds of nourishment, you might say.

And so, in the 1970s the Demases made a deal with Kinnear that he could pay them for his grilled cheese sandwiches with artwork. Being a painter himself and part of an art community, Kinnear would never run out of that currency.

Little did Kinnear—or anyone—know, eventually he would give the Demases a painting worth an entire lifetime's supply of grilled cheeses. And then some.

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