I recently was subbing in a nearby middle school and the students were reading MAUS by Art Spiegelman. I had never seen this book (though it won a Pulitzer and is widely known). After my day teaching, I found the book, THE COMPLETE MAUS, in the library so that I could continue the story. Maus is an early graphic novel (originally published in 1991). It is told entirely in comic strip form. The first part is “A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History” and leads up to Spiegelman’s parents being sent to Auschwitz, while the second part, “And Here My Troubles Began”, focuses on his father’s experience in the concentration camp and after the war for his parents.
MAUS depicts the story of Spiegelman’s father’s survival of the Holocaust in Europe, as he relays it to his son. A Polish Jew, Vladek Spiegelman marries his wife Anja and they are wealthy and successful business owners. WWII is creeping across Europe, however, and antisemitism is on the rise. Vladek relays when they first see a Nazi flag, when their first friends lose their businesses, when people begin to disappear. Slowly you see their world deteriorating, yet through it all, Vladek’s resiliency and resourcefulness shine through. He protects his wife first and foremost, and tries to save her parents as well. They have their young son go to live with friends so that he will be safe (he ends up dying though). Their main goal becomes to survive and make it through to the other side of WWII. The stories become more and more disturbing as the war progresses, and are made all the more disturbing as you know this is a true story.
I know I’m a little late to the party here as this book has been around for a while, but I am so thankful that I came across it and read it. Spiegelman’s depictions of the Nazi’s as cats and the Jews as mice is very clever (the Americans are dogs), and this book can be a great teaching tool in the classroom, particularly with older students. The graphic novel form makes it both easy to read and yet disturbing. Peppered throughout is Spiegelman’s own relationship with his father, especially in the second volume. You can see him trying to come to grips with their relationship, his father’s seemingly eccentric ways, and his father’s failing health, along with his mother’s death several years earlier. This was a touching and brilliant depiction of a Holocaust survivor which stayed with me long afterwards.
Highly recommended for this genre/time period! I got mine at the library.