She had never read it (but knew quite a bit about it), and it had been years since I had read it, so I decided to pick up a copy, read it, and then decide whether it was something worth pursuing. After all, teaching a book in a history class? Teaching a graphic novel? It was something to think about.
As I sat down and reread the book, I was blown away by the story and the imagery. First, the story. I think that any story of a Holocaust survivor is mind-boggling. I am sure that I am not alone in saying that I honor and respect the people who were sent to Concentration camps and survived. If I am being perfectly honest with myself, I don't think I would be that strong, that resilient. I would be the person who gave up on the train heading to the camps.
But there is something incredibly moving about this story in particular. I think the juxtaposition between the "present" and the "past" of the story pulls at my heartstrings just a bit more. From the beginning, we know who survives and who doesn't, and that Vladek has lived to an age where telling his story is both painful and liberating. I actually think that the passages in the "present," where Art is trying to record his father's story, say far more about the effects of the Holocaust than the text related to Vladek's story. And I don't say that to diminish the power or struggle of what Vladek went through, but to say that this is more than a story about surviving the Holocaust-it is about a man surviving his memories.
I think that I am very lucky-to be in a school that is supporting something "outside the box." I am excited and anxious to share this experience with my students. To read a book in history class. To read a graphic novel, a form of literature that is sometimes looked down on. But I have a strong feeling my students are going to be excited and moved by the story, much like I was.
And if you haven't read Maus, you need to. It is a book (books, really) that you can't be whole without. I think I learned far more about the effects of the Holocaust from this than all my years of schooling.