Maus: My Father Bleeds History

by Art Spiegelman

AR Level 3.2, 3 points

Maus tells the story from two perspectives: the author and his father.  Artie is a graphic novelist who wants to tell his father’s story of the Holocaust, so he interviews him and is creating comics about his experience.  Vladek is now an elderly man living in New York with his second wife, Mala.  Mala is also a survivor.  Artie and Vladek have a strained relationship due to Vladek’s miserly, nagging, and paranoid nature, as well as Artie’s mother’s suicide.  We learn what it was like to survive the Holocaust as a Polish Jew, although the story mainly focuses on the living conditions leading up to Vladek’s capture and placement in Auschwitz.  The story is dark, due to the obviously dark period of history, but Artie and Vladek are clearly unhappy and have had a difficult relationship.  Artie is suffering from events that occurred before and after he was born.  They’ve made a lot of mistakes, and neither are willing to see their part in the strain.  The story answers questions in the end, but there are several companion graphic novels to this story.

The reason I read this book (I never would have chosen it off the shelf myself) is because it was another of my husband’s highschool’s required summer reading books.  He brought it home 2 years ago, and I doubt he even opened it (as he is not a “pleasure” reader).  I decided to give it a try, and was pleasantly surprised, although I had some trouble getting used to the graphic novel format.  I later discovered it is a Pulitzer Prize winner, as well, and deservedly so.

What I liked about this book was the perspective. I’ve read lots of books about the Holocaust- what it was like in concentration camps, living in the ghetto, hiding, even from the perspective of those helping the Jewish escape being found.  I can’t say I’ve read the long term effects of living through that period.  Post traumatic stress and depression obviously had long term effects, even on those who weren’t born at the time.  I can’t say I liked learning about the sadness, but I enjoy learning and building my schema on this subject, as unpleasant (and that’s putting it mildly) as it is.

Also, it was really neat the way the Germans were cats and the Jews were mice.  That was an interesting touch.

What I didn’t like about this book was that this little family unit was so unhappy and unable to be in touch with their own feelings.  I miss my family and wish I could be with them, even though we’ve had (and still have) our disfunctions.  Artie was unable to cope with his misunderstanding, and Vladek was still suffering from what he’d lived through.

Book 23 of 52


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