A Mysterious Book Report Extra

by John Dwaine McKenna

April is a special month . . . a time of celebration and renewal. Spring is sprung by now, the grass is greening, crocuses are peeping out of flower beds and signs of new life are everywhere.  April is the warm-up for summer—when the livin’ is easy—in the words of the old iconic tune by Dubose Heyward and George Gershwin.  But April is also a time of remembrance; the nineteenth day of the month is designated as Holocaust Memorial Day.  It commemorates the slaughter of more than six million souls: men, women, and children, nearly all Jews, in the Nazi death camps during World War II. It is with that fact in mind, every April I read one or more books dealing with the Holocaust as a personal self-improvement project.  Because they’re not mysteries, thrillers or sci-fi—and because they’re not done for entertainment, I don’t usually review them.  This year is an exception, one that I hope you will follow up on, because it affected me in a deep personal way, and hey . . . it’s a comic book!  Yep. That’s right A comic book.

The complete MAUS, (Pantheon/Random House, $35.00, 296 pages, ISBN 978-0-67940641-9) by Art Spiegelman is the Pulitzer Prize-winning story of an estranged man attempting to reconnect with his father as the older Mr. Spiegelman tells how he and his wife Anya struggled and survived Nazi Europe in the 1930s and the Auschwitz concentration camp in the 1940s. Vladek Spiegelman’s biography is eloquently captured in the form of underground comic cartoon panels in which the Jews are depicted as scared mice, the Germans as mean cats, the poles are mostly uncaring pigs and the Americans as friendly dogs. The complete MAUS contains the entire body of cartoonist Art Spiegleman’s work about his father, who survived and The Holocaust, which took thirteen years to complete. In it, he depicts a heartbreaking, tragic story containing cruelty, drama, death, bigotry, betrayal, larceny and treachery in a matter of fact voice that only adds to the unbelievable horror of the Nazi era.  It’s a story everyone should know, lest anyone forget, but what makes it a masterpiece is the family saga deftly woven through the Auschwitz narrative. It shows the impact of Vladek Spiegelman’s experiences, the effect it had on him and all those around him for the rest of his life.

If you’ve already read MAUS back in the 70s, I’d read it again.  If you’re unfamiliar and choose to seek it out, it will change your life and how you view the world.  If you care to learn more about the Holocaust email me at for a list of books about it, all of which are available on Amazon.

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the Complete MAUS


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