As many of you already know, when I choose which booktalks to share with you I alternate between newer titles that I’ve just finished reading and older books from my (ever-diminishing) backlog of booktalks I’ve written over the years. Today I picked a title from my backlog, and man, is this a classic!
Yes, Maus is written in a graphic novel format, so some libraries shelve it in that section. But since the focus is on WWII and the Holocaust and it’s at least MOSTLY true, some libraries shelve it in the history section. And then again, it’s sort of a biography of one man mixed with the autobiography of another. But still, it’s written within a fictional / allegorical construct. It’s also a story within a story, and while I always find myself deeply moved by the story that Vladek shares, I also find myself empathazing with his son who’s recording that story. And so it goes; Maus is a multi-layered story that can speak to many readers at many levels, and both adults and teens can benefit from reading and discussing it.
Maus: My Father Bleeds History tells the first half of Art Spiegelman’s profoundly moving story. It continues with part 2, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book And Here My Troubles Began. You can read the two parts separately, or as The Complete Maus. And if you want to delve even further into this story, then you should also check out MetaMaus, which was released in 2011.
Art Spiegelman interviewed his father Vladek, a Holocaust survivor, about his experiences before, during, and after WWII. Vladek told his story to his son, who recorded their conversations on paper and on a tape recorder. Then he filtered the story through his own mind, and came up with Maus, a graphic novel in which Jews were mice and Germans were cats. This is a story filled with sadness and death. A story about a community of Jews who fought to survive, even as their rights were taken away one by one.
This is a story told by a man who speaks into his son’s tape recorder, remembering things he’d rather forget. A man who is still haunted by the thought of those who didn’t make it out alive. This is also the story of the man doing the recording, because hearing about all of his father’s experiences helped him to really understand his father for the first time.