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'Maus' author hosting virtual lecture with UT Knoxville after McMinn Co. Schools banned his book

The webinar will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 19.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The author of the Pulitzer-winning Holocaust graphic novel "Maus" is hosting a virtual lecture with the University of Tennessee on Saturday.

Author and illustrator Art Spiegelman will speak at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 19. The Fern and Manfred Steinfeld Program in Judaic Studies is hosting the event. People who want to attend can sign up at this link, and people with questions can submit them at this link.

The McMinn County Board of Education in January voted unanimously 10-0 to prevent teachers from using Maus in their lessons about the Holocaust. They later upheld the decision, despite international controversy.

Spiegelman penned the graphic novel between 1980 and 1991 during its serialization, and it depicts a Jewish man and his family as the Nazi regime rises to power. He is eventually arrested and is taken to Auschwitz, a brutal concentration camp where 1.1 million people were worked to death and killed while building munitions for the Nazi army.

The book tells his experiences there and in the country. Since 1992, it remains the only graphic novel to ever win a Pulitzer Prize.

The board pointed to profanity and nudity in the book as its main reasons for removing the literature from the classroom. The move was met with international condemnation, and when Spiegelman heard the news, he said he was shocked. 

"I was flabbergasted and then angry. Then, flabbergasted again as I read the minutes for the McMinn School Board's discussion about the book," Spiegelman said.

In a statement, the school board members said they "do not diminish the value of Maus as an impactful piece of literature." Yet they also said they stood by their decision to remove it. 

"I'm trying to not have the knee-jerk angry response that comes easily to me. But, to try to tune in to where the problems are," Spiegelman previously said.

He said he hopes to have the chance to talk with the school board, teachers and students directly.

"I will be glad to discuss with the school board, teachers and students. If an opportunity can be arranged for that to happen next couple of weeks, I'm all there for it," Spiegelman said.

Shortly after the incident made national news, interest in the book took off. The complete edition reached the top of Amazon's bestsellers list and remained the No. 3 most-sold book the week of Feb. 6. Both hardcover and paperback versions of the book were temporarily sold out.

A Knoxville comic book store also raised thousands of dollars to give the book to students who wanted to reach it.

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