NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A school board decision in East Tennessee is having the nation talking. The removal of a Pulitzer Prize-winning book from schools struck a chord. Now support for the graphic novel, Maus, is being heard across the country.
There’s nothing better than working in what you love. Former teacher Fawn Fernandes owns the Curious Capybara bookstore in Hendersonville.
“It’s the dreams of life, man,” she smiled. “A lot of people are jealous that I live in books all the time.”
Cameron McCasland also lives in his element at Nashville Education, Community, and Arts Television.
“What you’re going to find if you turn on channels 9, 10 or 19 is some of that stuff here,” he said as he walked around the studio. “Public Access is famous for its fake plastic trees.”
As a child, Cameron said comics changed his life.
“Stan Lee taught me to read,” he said. “I work with visual aids, so I think in pictures.”
Fawn and Cameron are in two pretty different workspaces with two different first loves for books and comics, but they totally agree on the power of the graphic novel, Maus.
“Author Art Spiegelman was telling the story of his father who was a Holocaust survivor,” Cameron said. “The Jews in the story are mice. The Nazis are cats.”
“He’s been well known for many, many years since winning the Pulitzer in 1992 for both the way he deals with the Holocaust and art,” Fawn added.
This week, the McMinn County school board in eastern Tennessee voted unanimously to remove Maus from the 8th grade circuit.
A statement from the council says it is “…due to its unnecessary use of profanity and nudity and its depiction of violence and suicide. Taken as a whole, the council felt that this work was simply too adult-oriented to be used in our schools.”
“It was really hard to hear,” Fawn said. “It’s such a valuable tool to help our children understand a very difficult time.”
“My first thought was anger because I know how powerful this book can be,” Cameron said. “I think it’s hard to tell the story of the Holocaust without depictions of violence.”
While the McMinn County School Board has said it will find other books to cover the Holocaust curriculum, something is up with Maus. Many independent bookstores have taken to social media to express their support for Maus, including The BookShop and Nashville’s Fairytales Bookstore.
On Amazon, The Complete Maus was ranked 7th among books at the time of this story’s publication.
“If you have a copy of this book, it’s fine to post a picture of it just to show what’s going on,” Cameron said.
“That’s what I see as the silver lining of this cloud,” Faon said. “So many people are now reading this book.”