Reading Banned Books: Maus I & II

Posted May 16, 2022 by Richetta in Book Reviews, Graphic Novel / 0 Comments

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Reading Banned Books: Maus I & IIMaus by Art Spiegelman
Published by Pantheon Books on March 26, 1993
Genres: Biography & Autobiography / Historical, Biography & Autobiography / Literary Figures, Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs, History / Holocaust
Pages: 159
Format: Paperback
Source: Library

The graphic novel acclaimed as "the most affecting and successful narrative ever done about the Holocaust" (Wall Street Journal) and "the first masterpiece in comic book history" (The New Yorker) - PULITZER PRIZE WINNER - One of Variety's "Banned and Challenged Books Everyone Should Read"

Here is the paper back boxed set, in its original two-volume format, re-released to include a sixteen-page booklet designed by the artist.

A brutally moving work of art--widely hailed as the greatest graphic novel ever written--Maus recounts the chilling experiences of the author's father during the Holocaust, with Jews drawn as wide-eyed mice and Nazis as menacing cats.

Maus is a haunting tale within a tale, weaving the author's account of his tortured relationship with his aging father into an astonishing retelling of one of history's most unspeakable tragedies. It is an unforgettable story of survival and a disarming look at the legacy of trauma.

Maus 1 Cover
Buy on Bookshop Maus I

I’ve known about the graphic novel series Maus for a long time. But I had never read it until now. The duology has gotten a lot of attention in the past few months because of the terrible book banning that is going on around the country. I decided that it was time for me to check it out. Plus I’m on a graphic novel kick.

Strategic Anthropomorphism

I understand why Art Spiegelman made the characters mice, pigs and cats. It gives the reader the opportunity to read and relate to a story that is truly horror-filled. I don’t know if I could’ve read this book in graphic novel format if he had used humans instead of animals. If you don’t what anthropomorphism means, according to Merriam Webster it is an interpretation of what is not human or personal in terms of human or personal characteristics. Children’s books do it all the time.

Telling Painful Stories

This story was a super painful story to read, and I can’t even imagine telling it in any format. It is a story of survival. It’s a story of generational trauma. It is a story of trying to heal wounds that are etched deep in your soul. I appreciate that Spiegelman told his father’s story of his experience during the Holocaust. I recently read the graphic novel adaptation of Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys and it reminded me of how hard it is to tell these types of stories. When you are this traumatized, why would you ever want to talk about it again? In Between Shades of Gray, it is actually dangerous for the deportees to tell their stories once they return from Siberia. There is the resistance of their own as they try to move on and the resistance of the community that wants to forget their shameful actions.

Maus 2 book cover
Buy on Bookshop Maus II

Surviving is Complicated

The line from the books that sits with me the most is when the therapist tells the son “But it wasn’t the BEST people who survived, nor did the best ones die. It was RANDOM!” in Maus II. Surviving is complicated. There is a lot of heaviness in this father-son story. It seems like once the war is in full swing in Europe, that every other page someone is “finished” according to the father. Whole families are wiped out, even after years of surviving that included the time leading up to the actual war.


I came for…  because all of the attention it was getting as a banned book

I stayed for…. this heartbreaking story of a father’s experience during the Holocaust

Would I Read it Again: Yes.

Educator Recommendations: This is a solid classroom novel study. It works on multiple levels and can be differentiated easily to accomodate students. It’s important to talk about the Holocaust and the events that led up to it. It’s also important for students to explore and build empathy for those who are suffering from generational trauma and who have survived trauma. I would also use these books to discuss the meaning and contribution of format to telling one’s story. Art Spiegelman is a comic artist, so that is the medium he choose to tell his father’s story. But he could have chosen to present everyone in human form, but he chose animals. How different a story would that have been? Would we have been able to take it visually or would it have been too much?

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