It is easy to denounce comic books or graphic novels as a form of childish entertainment or stories that are needlessly sexual or violent. But they can be a way to reach an audience who does not read traditional literature.
Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History, was published back in 1986. Written by Art Spiegelman, it is his parent’s story of survival during the Holocaust told in graphic novel form. Both the victims and perpetrators are represented by animals. The Jews are mice and the Nazis are cats. The narrative is as follows: The protagonist goes to visit his father. Their relationship, up to this point, has not been easy. The conversation turns to his parent’s experience during the war. Over the course of the book, his father tells his story. It starts off as an ordinary life, goes through tribulations that would break many, and ends with hope.
After reading this book, I now understand why some people want to ban it. Unlike other books on this subject, it is brutal in a way that words alone cannot convey. The images force the reader to confront the truth of this time in history and the savagery that was forced upon both the living and the dead.
We all know that books open the door to the world. They take us on a journey to places we have never been to and introduce us to people who we might not otherwise meet.
Last week, several school districts around the country banned books that some consider to be “controversial”. Among these is the award-winning graphic novel, Maus. Maus is the story of the Holocaust using the allegory of mice as Jews and cats as Nazis.
It’s one thing if a parent, school, and/or schoolboard tailors the children’s reading to their age, maturity, and interests. It is another thing entirely to ban books that share ideas that don’t fit into your worldview.
The fact is that we, as adults, cannot keep our young ones in neat little bubbles for their entire lives. Even if their media diet is severely limited now, they will one day grow up and leave the nest. Part of that experience is meeting new people and being exposed to ideas that conflict with our own.
Holocaust Remembrance Day was last week. We celebrated MLK‘s birthday a couple of weeks ago. The events surrounding both are not ancient history. If we are to give our kids a complete education, that includes telling them the truth about both events, even when we don’t like the facts. If we don’t we are shortchanging them and our future.