Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History Book Review

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.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Whoopi Goldberg: Close, But No Cigar

The good thing about the Holocaust being common knowledge is that we know the facts. The problem is that even with what is known, some people still prefer to fudge history to fit their own needs.

Yesterday, The View host Whoopi Goldberg made some rather uneducated comments about Maus being pulled from library shelves.

Goldberg responded: “If you’re going to do this, then let’s be truthful about it because the Holocaust isn’t about race.” She added that the Holocaust, which saw an estimated 6 million Jews and 5 million others killed as a result of the Nazis’ racist ideology, was about “man’s inhumanity to man” and said it involved “two White groups of people.”

This morning, she apologized.

In a general sense, Goldberg (who is not Jewish and was given the name of Caryn Elaine Johnson at birth) is right. The Nazis were hyperfocused on race. But they also have one very specific goal: make Europe (and the world by extension), Judenrein. The Jews were a monolith that had to be exterminated. While we cannot ignore that other groups (Roma, LGBTQ, disabled, etc) were on the list, they were not the priority.

As much as I admire Goldberg for her work and her outspokenness on certain subjects, this is a topic in which she knows less than she thinks she does. Had she done some basic research before opening her mouth, this little gaffe may never have happened.

P.S. If anyone wants to do some digging on this subject, I highly recommend Ben M. Freeman‘s book, Jewish Pride: Rebuilding a People. It is nothing short of eye-opening. If you only read one section, I recommend the interviews with six Jews of various backgrounds. Not all of them are Ashkenazi (from Eastern Europe).

P.P.S Since publishing the initial post, Goldberg was suspended for two weeks. There have been calls in the press for her to be fired. I personally think that firing is not necessary in this case. If she was an out-and-out racist, then firing would be appropriate. But she is ignorant. Ignorance can hopefully be fixed. Believing the lies when you know better is another thing entirely.

Banning Books is a Bad Sign of Things to Come

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.

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