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What Are You Reading?: A Different way to look at history

Devon  Murphy-Petersen dmurphy-petersen@waukee.org
Devon Murphy-Petersen dmurphy-petersen@waukee.org

Waukee Public Library Book Discussion tried something new last week – a graphic novel, which proved to be quite interesting material for our discussion. Graphic novels are books written in comic-strip style, and may be either fiction or non-fiction.

“Maus” is the Pulitzer-prize winning story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Polish Jew who survived the horrors of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, Art Spiegelman, a cartoonist and the author of “Maus”. Vladek’s traumatic experiences before and during World War II are interwoven with the story of the author’s painful relationship with his father.

Throughout the book, Germans are drawn as cats and Jews as mice. The discussion group found the graphic novel format surprisingly effective at portraying the extreme emotion, tension, and terror of Vladek Spiegelman’s experiences; likewise the Spiegelmans’ fraught father/son relationship. In a series of interviews, Vladek Spiegelman recalled his experiences chronologically starting shortly before WWII, his courtship and marriage to Anja, pogroms, deprivations, and his incarceration in Auschwitz/Birkenau. It took Spiegelman 13 years to write “Maus”, which was originally published as two volumes. It and many other graphic novels are available at Waukee Public Library.

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