Review: Maus II: A Survivor’s Tale: And Here My Troubles Began by Art Spiegelman

Maus II A Survivor's Tale And Here My Troubles Began

Maus II: A Survivor’s Tale: And Here My Troubles Began
Art Spiegelman
Pantheon Books
Published September 1992 (originally published in 1991)

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About Maus II: A Survivor’s Tale: And Here My Troubles Began

Acclaimed as a quiet triumph and a brutally moving work of art, the first volume of Art Spieglman’s MAUS introduced readers to Vladek Spiegleman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist trying to come to terms with his father, his father’s terrifying story, and History itself. Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), succeeds perfectly in shocking us out of any lingering sense of familiarity with the events described, approaching, as it does, the unspeakable through the diminutive.

This second volume, subtitled AND HERE MY TROUBLES BEGAN, moves us from the barracks of Auschwitz to the bungalows of the Catskills. Genuinely tragic and comic by turns, it attains a complexity of theme and a precision of thought new to comics and rare in any medium. MAUS ties together two powerful stories: Vladek’s harrowing tale of survival against all odds, delineating the paradox of daily life in the death camps, and the author’s account of his tortured relationship with his aging father. At every level this is the ultimate survivor’s tale – and that too of the children who somehow survive even the survivors.

Maus II on Goodreads

My Review

I finished reading this book weeks ago, but I knew it was going to take some time to digest before I was ready to write up my review. MAUS covers a heavy topic, not only because the book introduces us to a man who survived the Holocaust and his son’s relationship with him, but also because at least one school district banned the book last year.

If you’ve followed my blog long, you probably already know my feelings about book banning— I’m generally against it. I read the article about the decision to ban MAUS and the comments by the decision-makers who decided to ban it. Mainly, they were concerned about nudity and violence.

So the nudity concern seems a bit wild to me because the characters are… mice. One page shows illustrations of naked characters. It’s because they are prisoners who’ve been stripped and forced to line up for uniforms. The drawings aren’t super detailed. There are basically U shapes for masculine private parts. Anyway.

In terms of the story– I’ve read other books about the Holocaust before. I’m not sure it ever gets less horrifying– nor should it. But there’s really something unique about reading a visual representation of the story and one that’s expressed with animal faces (mice for the Jews and cats for the Nazis). I couldn’t help but feel shocked and moved by the story.

Another thing that really impacted me was the juxtaposition of Vladek’s first-person narrative about his survival of the Holocaust next to the challenges his son Art faces in trying to navigate a relationship with him.

Should Maus Be Banned?

In terms of the violence portrayed in the book. So. I’m not a historical expert. But. The Holocaust was violent. Cruel. Shockingly awful. While I think, yeah, we don’t need to present every horror to kids in school learning the history, I don’t think it’s possible to learn about the Holocaust without some exposure to violence. MAUS II has scenes that I would categorize as violent. They’re brief. But they’re there. I didn’t read anything personally that left me feeling that readers ages twelve to fourteen should be banned from exposure to it.

I’m a little bit embarrassed that it took me so many years to read both volumes of MAUS. I am really glad I read them, though. I think they’re incredibly important stories and very well-told.

Maus II on Bookshop

Content Notes

Content warning for genocide, brief nudity, and violence.

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Major characters are Jewish. Vladek Spiegelman is a Holocaust survivor who recounts his experiences in Auschwitz and other camps.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used very infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Brief nudity in a scene that shows male prisoners after they’ve been forced to strip and line up to receive prison uniforms. The drawings are specific enough to indicate that prisoners are male without being overly precise.

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
References to torture and abuse of prisoners. Reference to execution of prisoners in gas chambers or by burning or shooting them.

Drug Content

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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