Each month Abington Library will feature a favorite book from a faculty, staff member, or student. They will give a brief synopsis of their chosen book.
Lisa Floryshak is an Art instructor at ASU-Beebe.
Art Spiegelman, Maus: A Survivors Tale, My Father Bleeds History And Here My Troubles Began, (New York: Pantheon Books, 1997), 1-295. (review)
Illustrator Art Spiegleman's parents were holocaust survivors. Shortly after his mother committed suicide, Spiegleman set forth to reflect upon the painful family history created by the holocaust. Spiegleman completed an ethnography of his elderly father in graphic novel format. Spiegleman drew Maus in simplistic black and white frames that approach his family story from the metaphorical safety of childs' play. He wrote about his parent's survival experience as if it were a game of cat and mouse—the Nazis are the cats persecuting the Jewish mice.
The storyline shifts back and forth from the Auschwitz and Buchenwald camps to his father's apartment in Queens. Spiegleman attempts to address his family story and his struggle with its dynamics before it's too late. While Speigleman's family history is a fascinating tale of perseverance, there is trauma, romance, survival, liberation; the brilliant literary tension of a game of cat and mouse allows the reader to absorb the context of the holocaust survivor in the broader picture of World War II. His monochromatic scheme and use of dramatic lines cement the story's urgency. Lest we not forget the vital message of this work, a stern warning that history tends to repeat itself.
I chose this book for several reasons. First, the format that Spiegleman used for this graphic novel has become a gold standard historically. Thirty-six years after it was initially published, artists are still learning from it. Secondly, this book was recently banned. The content was deemed too harsh. The holocaust was brutal, and war against civilians is always ugly. Lastly, I chose this book because of the ongoing genocides in numerous locations in the world, including Europe. We can't begin to understand peace if we are too afraid to unpack the root causes of the violence. Sadly, history appears to be repeating itself.
Lisa Floryshak, Art Department