Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Maus, Vol. 1: My Father Bleeds History

Title: Maus, Vol. 1: My Father Bleeds History

Series: Maus; Bk #1
Author: Art Spiegelman
Paperback, 159 pages
Published August 12th 1986 by Pantheon


The book Maus is a frame narrative—which is a literary technique that has a story in a story. (An example of this is the movie The Princess Bride, were the story starts out with the boy and his grandfather reading the story.  The movie constantly changes from the boy and his grandfather to Buttercup and Westley).  The book is narrated by Art Spiegelman, who is a graphic novel artist living in America in the late 1970’s.  Art has a lot of hard feelings towards his dad,  and has been estranged from him for several years. He wants to really get to know his father, so that Art can draw his father’s life.  Art’s father, Vladek Spiegelman, is a crotchety old Jewish man, who has seen many horrors in his life.  Art and his father spend many hours sharing about each other lives—about hunger, anti-Semiticism, postpartum depression, lost loved ones, and many other fears.  Throughout the book Art learns about his pre-Holocaust family, about his mother, and a brother he never met.  Art struggles with how to portray his cheap, calloused father—afraid to Further Jewish stereotypes, but also wanted to accurately portray his father.   This is a beautiful and heartbreaking story that will cause you to both laugh and cry.

I want to start by saying, I am not usually a graphic novel reader.  I have only even read one other graphic novel, and I was not impressed.  I found the pictures unimaginative and distracting from the story.  So, you’ll understand why I was a little hesitant to pick up Maus.  I went to a library workshop last spring and heard a presentation on graphic novels. The speaker explained that “graphic novel” isn’t a genre it’s a medium.  It would be like listening to a Justin Beiber song and deciding that you hated The Beatles, just because they are both music.  With this in mind, I decided to try another graphic novel, but this time one from a genre that I actual enjoy reading.  I chose Maus because I have read and enjoyed many books about the Holocaust.  Also, Maus was the first graphic novel to receive the Pulitzer Prize  (which is like the Oscar’s in the literary world).  When I first picked up the book I was skeptical, but by page 3 I was hooked and finished the book very quickly— and then immediately checked out the second book.  Now, I’m not going to lie and say now I am a graphic novel enthusiast and read one a week.  But I will say Maus allowed me to rid myself about my prejudice against graphic novels as a whole.

I would suggest this book to anyone who is curious about the Holocaust.  In school all the books I was assigned to read about the Holocaust—Number the Stars, A Diary of a Young Girl, and The Devil’s Arithmetic—featured children as the main character. I feel as though Maus has given me a more well-rounded view of what European Jews went through.  Also, the book showed how Holocaust survivors coped after the end of the war and how their relationships with family-members, other survivors, and non-Jews were affected.

Now I challenge those of you who are not graphic novel readers to pick up a graphic novel and try it out for yourself.  Not all graphic novels include superheroes, Japanese kids with mad martial art skills, or scantily-clad, over developed women.  OPPL library has many graphic novels that are biographies, classics, chick lit, and retellings of your favorite books like Twilight or Daniel X.  So, I challenge you to ask your YA librarian to point you in the direction of the graphic novels and give it a try.  Who knows you might just find your new favorite book.


  1. Loved your review. You are right, I also thought differently of graphic novels until I began reading longer ones with more depth.

    1. When I hear people trash talk graphic novels saying they are just full of violence and sexual content, I try to challenge them to read Maus. It changed my opinion maybe it'll do the same for others.