‘Maus’ Tops Amazon Bestseller List After Tennessee School Board Pulls Graphic Novel – The Wall Street Journal

“Maus,” a graphic novel about the Holocaust published decades ago, reached the top of Amazon.com Inc.’s bestsellers list after a Tennessee school board’s decision to remove the book spurred criticism nationwide.

“The Complete Maus,” which includes the first and second installments of Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer-Prize winning graphic novel, sat at the top of Amazon’s bestseller list Monday morning. It later moved to the No. 2 spot. Separate copies of the installments, published in 1986 and 1991, respectively, were also among the top 10 bestselling books on the retail giant’s website.

Attention to the graphic novel was renewed this month when the McMinn County Board of Education in Athens, Tenn., voted unanimously to remove “Maus” from its eighth-grade curriculum. The 10-member board cited “vulgar” words that appeared in the book as well as subjects they deemed inappropriate for eighth-graders.  

The school board’s Jan. 10 decision sparked widespread criticism. In an interview with CNBC last week, Mr. Spiegelman said he was baffled by the move, calling it “Orwellian.”

Mr. Spiegelman said Monday he was moved by the response by readers. He said he would use the income to donate to voter-registration drives to help prevent efforts to ban books in schools.

A representative for Amazon declined to comment. A representative from Penguin Random House’s Pantheon Graphic Library, which published the graphic novel, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

In “Maus,” Mr. Spiegelman examines the horrors of the Holocaust and his parents’ journey of survival, depicting Nazis as cats and Jewish people as mice. The nearly 300-page graphic novel received a special Pulitzer Prize in 1992. 

The McMinn County Board of Education said the graphic novel “was simply too adult-oriented” and cited the use of profanity, nudity, and depictions of violence and suicide. In a statement last week, the board said it doesn’t dispute the importance of teaching students about the Holocaust and said it asked administrators to find more age-appropriate texts to “accomplish the same educational goal.”

“The atrocities of the Holocaust were shameful beyond description, and we all have an obligation to ensure that younger generations learn from its horrors to ensure that such an event is never repeated,” the board said in a statement last week. “We simply do not believe that this work is an appropriate text for our students to study.”

The chairman of the school board didn’t respond to a request for further comment Monday.

The school board’s decision comes amid a wave of similar efforts across the U.S. to pull books from library shelves and alter school curricula, often following directives from state elected officials or challenges from parents that the books are inappropriate for children. The books often focus on themes around race and gender. 

Tennessee is among at least 12 states—including Texas, New Hampshire and Idaho—that have recently passed laws or issued rules that define how schools and colleges can teach subjects related to discrimination, race and gender. Last year, the number of book challenges by parents and other groups reached a record, according to the American Library Association.

Write to Jennifer Calfas at jennifer.calfas@wsj.com

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