By Gillian Puma, Contributor
Art Spiegelman is an American cartoonist known for writing graphic novels. Spiegelman uses his talent in his biographical novels known as “Maus”. Short for Mauschwitz (an alternative for Auschwitz), Maus is a tragic yet uniquely told story about a man reconnecting with his father and learning about his survival in the Holocaust.
Coming in two volumes known as “Maus: My Father Bleeds History” and “Maus: And Here My Troubles Began”, Spiegelman tells this biography in the most unique way. Using his skills in comic design, Spiegelman separates the Jews by designing them as mice. He then designs the Nazis as cats and the Polish as pigs, adding a sense of allegory to this story.
Spiegelman starts the novel in 1958 describing a childhood experience he encountered with his father, Vladek. While complaining to Vladek that his friends left him behind, his father responds with a statement regarding to his experience while hiding from the Nazis. It is now 1978 and Spiegelman is now an adult who has become distant from Vladek. Vladek has remarried a new woman since the suicide of Spiegelman’s mother and has become difficult to get along with. However, this doesn’t stop him from exploring his father’s history.
Vladek recollects stories from the Holocaust, but also tells of his personal life outside of the events. We learn of Vladek’s relationship with his original wife, being drafted into the war, the harsh realities of the concentration camps, and finally the harsh toll on Vladek and his wife mentally once the war ended. The novel takes us in what is one of the most realistic interpretation of what living in Poland in these dark times. In 1992, “Maus” was the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize and won the American Book Award the same year.
When I told people that it was a graphic novel, they instantly assumed it was a comic book. I feel that graphic novels as a genre is never taken seriously because people see it as a bunch of drawings and an “easy read”. However I finished both volumes in a day not because it they were easy reads, but because it was so intriguing to see the events Vladek had encountered during this time period.
Even though I read this book in the summer of 2016, I decided to reread it in the summer of 2017 during the events of Charlottesville. I immediately thought back to the stories that Vladek had discussed in Maus. After rereading this novel again, I was absolutely disgusted by the events that occurred. The fact that these American men were supporting the events that happened less than a hundred years ago was genuinely terrifying. These neo-Nazis don’t seem to be truly educated about the destruction the events caused on a lot of people. Rereading the novel at this time opened my eyes even more. I highly recommend reading this novel if you are looking for not only a quick read, but to be inspired and educated on the events of the Holocaust.