Art Spiegelman: Winner of National Book Award And National Controversy

Art Spiegelman, the author of Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel ‘Maus,’ is to be awarded by the National Book Foundation amidst recent censorship efforts by schools in the United States.

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Picture of Art Spiegelman

Spiegelman is best known for his 1992 graphic novel, Maus: A Survivor’s Tale—a harrowing account of his father’s experience as a Jewish Holocaust survivor—which has often been the subjected to censorship including the most recent ban from Tennessee schools for “nudity and objectionable language.” These recent bans, however, have only succeeded in bringing Maus and Art Spiegelman back to the forefront of public consciousness as these recent attempts at censorship have increased the sales of Maus and increased the media surrounding its author.

Graphic Novel MAUS by Art Spiegelman. Image by Thomas Lehne

Adding to this recognition is the One Book, One Chicago program choosing Maus as its latest title selection which some believe is a provocation against those who wish to see the book banned from schools. Whether a provocation or not, however, the program, which consists of lectures, workshops, and a discussion with Spiegelman himself about Maus, will continue the dialogue in this country about the teaching of difficult historical topics such as the Holocaust.

On top of this, Art Spiegelman was announced he is to be awarded one of the National Book Foundation’s two lifetime achievement awards as presented by Neil Gaiman in November 2022. The Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (DCAL) is an award given to those individuals who have made a significant impact on the United States’ literary heritage. Spiegelman is the first comic artist to receive the DCAL medal.

Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (DCAL). Image by Beowulf Sheehan

Despite the controversy, many have recognized the major contributions Art Spiegelman has made to literature in the United States through all his work, not just Maus; and has expanded the idea of what is literature to include media such as comics and graphic novels. His book Maus, too, has contributed to the recognition of tragic historical events, and how people can learn about and process these tragedies from human history and why it is important to continue to keep stories like these at the forefront of education and learning.

Find out more about Maus, banned books, and previous winners of the National Book Foundation awards at Bookstr.