Author of controversial Holocaust-related book to speak at Reston Community Center

Art Spiegelman, the author and cartoonist of the critically acclaimed “Maus,” is speaking at the Reston Community Center later this month.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novelist will appear at the Reston Community Center’s Center Stage to present “What the %@&*! Happened to Comics,” an examination by Spiegelman himself of the value of comic books and graphic novels and why they should be celebrated, not ignored.

RCC’s Executive Director Leila Gordon offered the following statement about the issue:

The effort to ban books is in reality an effort to suppress knowledge. It always backfires; people who try to prevent learning are people who are afraid of freedom and complexity. RCC is delighted to present Mr. Spiegelman and to offer our community his insights and inspiration. Tennessee officials did Mr. Spiegelman an enormous favor and his books great credit despite trying to withhold his work from young minds — they managed to both entice those same impressionable readers and enrich Art Spiegelman — which is a great two-fer!”

Spiegelman has been a veteran of the comics world since the mid-1960s, some of his more notable work includes his run as co-editor alongside his wife Francoise Mouly of the comics magazine Raw from 1980 to 1991 where “Maus” was originally released in a serialized format. Maus would later be collected in the graphic novel format in two parts.

In “Maus,” Spiegelman relates the story of his parents while living in 1940s Poland and surviving the Holocaust as accounted by Spiegelman’s father. The book uses anthropomorphized animals for the groups involved in the story such as mice in place of Jewish people and cats as Nazis. The book would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1992.

The controversy around the book was recently stoked due to a decision made by the McMinn County School Board in Tennessee to ban the book for “inappropriate language” and a depiction of nudity, according to the Associated Press.

The resulting ban has increased sales of the book recently taking spots in the top five sales rankings on Amazon’s Best Sellers list in the Graphic Novel category. The ban and the result of renewed interest in “Maus” has been attributed to the so-called Streisand Effect by media outlets such as CNBC.

The Streisand Effect posits that when an attempt to ban, hide, or censor information is made it has an unintended consequence of bringing attention and interest to the public. The Streisand Effect is named after noted singer/actress Barbara Streisand. 

Fairfax County has its own recent history involving attempts at banning books. In September, parents called for the banning of two books with LGBTQ content from high school libraries. The books, “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe and “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison, were singled out alleging depictions of pedophilia. A review made by a school panel determined that the allegations were unwarranted and the books were allowed to return to the shelves of high school libraries.

Spiegelman’s “What the %@&*! Happened to Comics” will be held on Feb. 27 at Center Stage at the Reston Community Center at 2310 Colts Neck Road. Tickets for the event are officially sold out. 

Photo via Pengiun Random House

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