'Maus' author to speak in free webinar arranged by Jewish Federation of Chattanooga

File Photo / Art Spiegelman

Art Spiegelman, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel "Maus," will speak about the firestorm surrounding his book via a free webinar Monday.

According to the Jewish Federation of Chattanooga, more than 4,000 attendees were registered by midday Friday.

Executive Director Michael Dzik said interest in the webinar, and the wider reaction to the controversy, has been heartwarming.

"We see this as an opportunity for dialogue and conversation and learning together," he said by phone. "Really, the silver lining behind all of this is that it brings us closer together to have these kinds of conversations."

"Maus" has been the subject of intense national discussion since the McMinn County school board in Athens, Tennessee, voted 10-0 to remove the work from the eighth-grade curriculum last month. The nonfiction work tells of the experiences of Spiegelman's father, a Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust. Board members cited the book's explicit language and nudity for their decision. The scene with nudity is a depiction of the author's mother's suicide in a bathtub.

[READ MORE: Sales soar for 'Maus' after its banning in Tennessee]

photo File Photo / Cover art of "The Complete Maus," which combines both volumes of Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel.

"Maus" was published in two volumes in 1986 and 1991. It is the only graphic novel to have won a Pulitzer Prize.

Dzik noted that Chattanooga's Jewish population is small and Athens' is even smaller, so he welcomes the chance for the community at large to hear firsthand from the author.

"He's doing a lot of interviews but not a lot of programs right now," Dzik said of Spiegelman. "We're humbled that he has made himself available to speak virtually for this program."

Questions from participants will be taken during the registration process and presented by moderators during the webinar. The registration form is at jewishchattanooga.com. A link to the webinar, which starts at 7 p.m. Monday, will be sent by email. The program also will be livestreamed on the federation's Facebook page and recorded for later viewing.

Other sponsors of the program are Ascension Lutheran Church of Chattanooga, B'nai Zion Congregation, Mizpah Congregation and the digital media company Tennessee Holler.

An Athens church, St. Paul's Episcopal, held a discussion of the book Thursday night. A Facebook post described the gathering as "a beautiful and hopeful evening of learning and connection."

Contact Lisa Denton at ldenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6281.