Celebrating Jewish literature
And resisting censorship
The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame. —Oscar Wilde
Last Thursday, I wrote about International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the importance of commemorating the victims of the Shoah in the face of increasing anti-Semitism.
You can read that post here if you missed it.
Not long after hitting publish, I learned that a school board in Tennessee had recently voted to remove the Pulitzer Prize–winning graphic novel Maus, an evocative Holocaust story based on the experiences of author Art Spiegelman’s father, from the school curriculum.
The school board cited violence, nudity, and profanity as reasons for the ban but many have accused them of attempting to whitewash the Holocaust.
I’ve compiled some of the articles and videos that have helped me think about the ban within the broader context of censorship and anti-Semitism.
I also want to highlight the Vancouver Jewish Book Festival (Feb. 6-10, 2022)—my original intent for today’s post.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Understanding the issues.
Do you have an instagram account? Author and illustrator Vesper Stamper recorded her thoughts on censorship versus curation, and talked about what makes Maus so powerful not only as literature and but also as a resource to build awareness and empathy. Look for the video in her stories. @vesperillustration
Do you want to know more about book banning in general? Read Book Banning in 21st-Century America by Emily Knox, associate professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Short on time? Read a recent interview with her in Slate.
Interested in reading what author and illustrator Art Spiegelman thinks about the ban of his book? He is quoted in ArtNews and in USA Today, where he says he’s “happy the book has ‘an afterlife’ as a teaching tool and he believes it can spark conversation and deeper understanding about genocide and oppression.”
Celebrating Jewish literature.
The Cherie Smith JCC Jewish Book Festival in Vancouver, British Columbia is preparing to launch in just a few days—and it’s virtual, which means you can join the celebration of contemporary Jewish literature from your kitchen table.
The festival begins Sunday, February 6th with “Investigating the New Anti-Semitism,” featuring Dara Horn, author of People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present, and David Baddiel, author of Jews Don’t Count.
The five-day festival features art celebrating Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month with Rivka Gehrer, author of Golem Girl: A Memoir; Yiddish literature; short stories; the launch of several novels; and a discussion with Judith McCormack, author of The Singing Forest, a book on genocide in Belarus that I am currently reading.
A digital pass to the festival is CDN $99. You can buy tickets and download the festival program online.
Supporting people and organizations doing good work.
If you are concerned about rising anti-Semitism, please show your support for organizations dedicated to Holocaust awareness and education or your local Jewish Community Center (JCC).
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