What may not be required reading in the USA

Mouse (1980)

Dhe graphic novel in which Art Spiegelman deals with his parents’ experiences during the Shoah and his mother’s suicide is considered a standard work in the USA for educating young people about the Holocaust. In the form of a fable, Spiegelman depicts the Nazis as anthropomorphic cats and the Jews as mice. Spiegelman was the first and only comic artist to receive the Pulitzer Prize. In January 2022, the McMinn County, Tennessee school board decided to remove “mouse” from the eighth grade curriculum. The justification given is “the unnecessary use of profanity and nudity” and the depiction of Spiegelman’s mother’s suicide. A school board member called the content “vulgar and inappropriate,” citing the words “bitch” and “god damn” as examples. The decision has an unintended side effect: More than 40 years after the publication of the first volume, “Maus” climbs back to the top of the bestseller lists.

Cover of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird

Image: Publisher

Killing a Mockingbird (1960)

Harper Lee’s novel about the attorney Atticus Finch, who takes over the defense of the black man Tom Robinson accused of rape in the southern states of the 1930s, has long been one of the modern classics of American literature. Because of Finch’s portrayal as “White Savior” and the use of the N-word, the Burbank, California school board temporarily removed the novel along with several other books from their required reading list in September 2020. When the committee couldn’t reach a unanimous decision, it was decided to keep Who Annoyed the Nightingale in the libraries. In principle, students have access to it, but no longer have to deal with it in class. In addition, the committee passed a resolution prohibiting the use of the N-word, regardless of the context. In addition, the reading lists will be updated regularly to include works by Black and Indigenous authors. In two other states, school boards removed “To Kill the Nightingale” from classrooms and libraries.

Cover of Lesléa Newman and Laura Cornell's

Cover of Lesléa Newman and Laura Cornell’s “Heather Has Two Mommies”

Image: Publisher

Heather Has Two Mommies (1989)

Lesléa Newman’s children’s book tells the story of Heather growing up with a lesbian couple, Jane and Kate. The picture book explains various family models in a child-friendly way. The Pennridge School District in Pennsylvania removed “Heather Has Two Mommies” from its elementary school libraries in December 2021 after halting all diversity and inclusion initiatives in August. In an email, elementary schools were asked to “remove books with gender identity content” to review them for “sensitive topics such as profanity, violence, gender identity or sexual content”. A new policy also sets out how schools should deal with LGBTQ issues, such as changing names and pronouns. For elementary schools, it says, “We do not discuss or use LGBTQ-related terms.”