Maus by Art Spiegelman

Maus I & II via Love at First BookI’ve never read a graphic novel (aka comic book) before, but I was recommended to pick up Maus by River City Reading and Estella’s Revenge, so I grabbed copies of both books (Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale” My Father Bleeds History and Maus II: A Survivor’s Tale: And Here My Troubles Began) from the library.

Wow.  Maus I tells a dual story.  One part is author and comic writer Art Spiegelman’s experience with his father, Vladek, while getting the story of the Holocaust from him.  The second part is Vladek’s tale of Holocaust survival, from his time as a young man in Poland before meeting his wife (Art’s mother, Anja) all the way to Anja and Vladek’s capture by the German Nazi soldiers.

Maus II describes a similar dual story, with Art’s experiences with his father being one part.  Vladek continues to describe his Holocaust experiences, being sent to Auschwitz and how both he and Anja survived the war.

Maus is so REAL.  Vladek and Art are not heros, nor are they perfect characters.  They have flaws, which are exhibited in these novels.  But those flaws do not detract from what Vladek experienced in any way.  His story is memorable and I commend Art for sharing it in such an honest way, including character flaws.

Don’t skip these books because they are graphic novels.  That would be a mistake.  I have never read anything like this before, never even picked up a comic book, yet, they were so easy to read.  I forgot I was reading a graphic novel, to be honest.  So don’t let the graphic novel thing scare you away.

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Interested in getting your own copy? Check it out on Amazon & Indiebound. I get a small percentage if you purchase from those links, and it doesn’t cost you any extra.

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36 thoughts on “Maus by Art Spiegelman

  1. “Maus I” and “Maus II” were given to me and I have been recommending them ever since. I am not a fan of graphic books –“Persepolis” and its sequel were poor. Alison Bechtel’s “Fun Home” is on the same high level as Art Spiegelman’s work but her book on her mother is atrocious.

    It is as though this form of illustrated writing is so new that the producers themselves don’t know how to distinguish between good and bad. They are just doing it and hoping…

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    • I think that’s why people stay away from graphic novels. I don’t want to read comic books. I want to read literature. But would I read good literature or nonfiction in the form of a graphic novel? I would try it now!

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  2. I have to admit that I’ve never really given graphic novels a chance but I keep hearing about how good some are from friends and even at work, and now here on your blog! You have excellent taste in books so maybe this is a sign that now’s the time to get them a shot! 🙂

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    • Thanks, Jan! I think that this is a good place to start, with Maus. It’s not a typical comic book, it’s a true story, so that helped me even want to read it. Plus, I was surprised how many of my friends/blogging pals have read it and loved it. There was almost nothing to lose!

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  3. I’ve been putting this one off for a really long time now… Mainly because it’s a graphic novel. I’ve read a few, but I’m not a fan. I think that there are always better things to read than a comic book. Your review makes me want to read it, though. I might give it a shot!

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  4. I loved the visual analogy of the people as animals. And that by the end of the book the animal facades were clearly masks. So much to say about ethnicity and identity. I just loved these books! I’m glad you enjoyed them, too. NOW, you need to try Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, and Boxers and Saints (2-book set) by Gene Luen Yang. I love Gene Yang…can you tell? 🙂

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    • I guess it’s just about being exposed to graphic novels you’re interested in. They were never even on my radar until I realized that some of them aren’t just about people with super powers. I thought it was all comic-book-like. Being part of the book blogging world has opened my eyes to a lot of things, with graphic novels being one of those!

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  5. I am not one for pictures in books at all, so it’s hard for me to think of wanting to read a graphic novel. But in grad school back in 2006 I took a memoir class and Maus was one of the books. It was soooo good. S I reiterate Rebecca’s recommendation to everyone. Maybe even Google the many aspects visuals add to the reading. In graphic novels, the size of the frame, where it cuts images off and doesn’t, color vs shadow, etc all adds to the meaning. It’s a pretty complicated set up, although we seem to take it in quite naturally.

    I always display Maus in my classroom to draw kids into looking at my shelf of books. They can’t resist seeing why or how a teacher is getting away with displaying a Nazi symbol.

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    • Haha, Jennine! That’s what kept me away from Maus at first actually. . . such a prominent swastika – blech! But then I realized what Maus was about and it seriously is genius! I mean, look at how he made the characters: Jews are mice, which are defenseless but sometimes looked at as vermin (ie anti-Semitism, and please, I’m Jewish and don’t think Jews are vermin at all of course, but there is plenty of anti-Semitism now and previously), the German Nazis are cats, to which mice are defenseless. And so on. . . It’s really great stuff!

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  6. Graphic novels are wonderful! I agree with Shannon…Blankets and Persepolis are wonderful. I would also recommend Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. Also — author/artist Lucy Knisley. She is so talented.

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    • I’m the same way, though. I enjoy reading about Holocaust literature, fiction and nonfiction because it’s so interesting and such an intriguing time. And while I don’t know of anyone who personally died in the Holocaust, they say that every Jewish person has a relative who was affected. Also, I do know that the town where some of the relatives on my mom’s side were from (where her maiden name came from) was wiped out.

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    • I think this is a great place to start because they aren’t like comic books about superheroes or anything. They’re about the true story of a Holocaust survivor, just written differently. They’re quick reads, too, so they are good places to begin, in my opinion, to open your mind up to a graphic novel.

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  7. Graphic novels like this are awesome. I think graphic-novel-nonfiction has become one of my favorite things. Good for you for trying it out! And a good pick too, Maus is really great and really powerful.

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  8. Thank you for the suggestion!I think I’ll buy the both two books! I have read only two graphic novel in my life, both were a present for my birthday. One tell about an italian political and financial history (Il Caso Calvi) , but unfortunately is not translated in languages other than the Italian. The second book, that i would suggest is “Pyongyang” written by Guy Delisle (published in English as Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea), a Graphic novels writer from Canada, that lived for 2 months in north Korea for work. In particular in this graphic novel he told his experience about, with a very interesting way of describing what’s going on in this country without democracy, through a graphic novel.

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  9. One of our book club members suggested graphic novels for an upcoming month and most of the gals were terrified of trying them. I think maybe these would be a great choice for them since the stories are so good. Maybe then they could get over the idea of the pictures being there!

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    • It’s a hurdle to get over, yes, but if you get the right book, it can definitely be done! This one is a good one to start with, and I honestly “forgot” it was a graphic novel. I think they just need to give it a chance. Maybe you or the other member can bring in a few copies from the library so the other members can try reading a page or two. It might help to have them “sample” the read.

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  10. Pingback: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi - Love at First Book

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