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.
As I've offered before with other banned comics, I'll donate up to 100 copies of The Complete Maus to any family in the Mcminn County area in Tennessee. Just DM me your address! pic.twitter.com/ptmdjmwYE5— Ryan Higgins (@RyanHigginsRyan) January 26, 2022
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.”
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