Books By Patti Liszkay
Available On Amazon
and the sequel, "Hail Mary" https://www.amzn.com/1684334888
Available on Amazon.
To everyone who knows me, either personally or through my writing, I say prepare to have your mind blown:
I agree with the Tennessee school board.
"Maus" should by no means be required reading for eighth graders. Emphasis here is on "eight-graders." And "required reading."
Before going on I must admit that I haven't read "Maus." That is to say, I haven't read most of it. About thirty or so year ago, after having heard of its acclaim, I found some of the "Maus" editions at the library. I picked up the one with the image of mice as concentration camp prisoners,
Which is not to say that I'd never before heard of or seen or been horrified by graphic images of the Holocaust. In fact while living in Germany in the 1970's Tom and I visited two Nazi death camps, Nazweiler-Struthof and Mauthausen. We felt that seeing the remains of those filthy camps, the gas chambers, the crematoria, the ugly green-tiled laboratories where there were drains in the floor to drain away the blood from the human bodies being butchered on the white tables, we felt that seeing all that, along with the terrible photos and drawings on display, awful as it all was to see, was the least we could do.
Which is also not to say that, though I didn't finish "Maus," I don't consider Art Spiegelman's story one well worth the telling or worthy of a pulitzer prize. I do. I just don't think "Maus" should be required reading for eight-graders. Eleventh- or twelfth-graders? Sure. College students? Even better, as the older, more intellectually experienced and mentally mature a student is when they read "Maus," the better they'll be able not only to handle the very troubling subject matter on an emotional level, but the better they'll understand and appreciate the work, the more insights they'll have, the more they'll connect to the human interactions and the symbolism.
Eight-graders are simply too young to get "Maus." All but the most precocious kids at that age are oblivious to metaphore. But the more critical concern - my concern, at least - is that many kids of that age - maybe most kids - would find "Maus' not enlightening, not broadening, not, formative, but merely disturbing, upsetting, the stuff of nightmares or maybe even an immature and unhealthy morbid fascination.
The legion of critics demonizing the Tennessee school board for removing "Maus" from the eight-grade reading list mock the school board's concern over some images of nudity, a few obscenities, some violence, a couple suicides. But should there not be objections to assigning middle-schoolers a book with images of nudity? Especially when the images are of people being degraded and tormented in their nudity?
Is there really such a great need to make children eat of the fruit of good and evil, to experience everything, to be exposed to everything, to be made to learn what a terrible place this world can be before they've barely reached puberty? Is it really such a crime to want to protect children, to allow them their innocence for as long as possible?
Still, if eighth grade is the time to start reading about the Holocaust, there certainly must be more age-appropriate books to ease them into it, and in the meantime Art Spiegelman need not worry that the eighth-graders in one Tennessee school district won't be required to buy his book: they'll be reading it soon enough along with everybody else. Since the news broke about the removal of "Maus" from one curriculum the sales of his graphic novel have gone through the stratosphere. I may even snag a copy for myself.