SUMMER READING: Graphic Novels

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale I: My Father Bleeds History
Maus: A Survivor’s Tale II: And Here My Troubles Began
by Art Spiegelman
Review by Laurie Sabol
When I was a kid, comic books meant Archie and Jughead or Superman. Adventures such as the Holocaust – during which my family and I could have been dragged out of our beds and transported to Auschwitz for likely extermination to fulfill a madman’s nightmare – were so far from my imagination as to be unimaginable. Born and bred a Jew on a primarily Jewish street in a primarily Jewish neighborhood who went to primarily Jewish schools, my few interactions with that blight on 20th century history consisted of a an elderly neighbor with an old-country accent who wouldn’t ride in Volkswagens and a nice lady who worked at the local department store with a numeric tattoo on the inside of her forearm. I used to try to steal glances at it while pretending to request that she reach things for me on a high shelf.
In the mid to late 1980s, Art Spiegelman, an artist of the comics genre, serialized Maus in Raw, a comics magazine he founded early in the 80s. Maus tells the story of his father, Vladek, who lived through World War II in Poland and was interviewed by his son for this first-hand account of his remarkable life before, during and after World War II. The product of those interviews is Maus I: My Father Bleeds History and Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began.
The two volumes, in simple black and white drawings, travel between the 1930s and 1940s and 1980s. Vladek tells his story, from the time starting in his late teens. Life is good, life is typical, life goes on. Until of course, Hitler and his infiltration into Poland. All the Jews in Maus are depicted as mice; Germans are cats, Poles are pigs, Americans are dogs, and so on. Spliced into Vladek’s story is his son’s increasing frustration with his aging father, depicted in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a doddering, cheap, stubborn old man. While the younger Spiegelman marvels not only at his father’s resolve to live through Auschwitz but also his shrewd dealings to get him and his wife through the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp, Art depicts himself as having trouble loving his father for what he has become towards the end of his life. This theme, for anyone who has an elderly father or grandfather who lived through World War II, has special poignancy.
Summer beach reading? Sure, if you’d like a little emotion and a little history with your pina colada.
Call number for My Father Bleeds History: D810.J4 S643

Call number for And Here My Troubles Began: D804.3 .S66

(Click on the call numbers for the library catalog records)
The Forever War 2: Lieutenant Mandella (2020-2203)
by Joe W. Haldeman
Review by Stephen McDonald
This volume is the middle of a trilogy of graphic novels based on the novel of the same name by Joe Haldeman. Haldeman is a well-known science fiction author who often brings his passion for history and his military experiences in Vietnam to his writing. The Forever War tells the story of a soldier in an interstellar war where the ships spend much of their time near light-speed. The military treats the soldiers like interchangeable parts. Technology and culture evolves rapidly in the war-time economy, while the time-dilated soldiers perceive the passing of mere months. By the time the transports return, the soldiers find that they are obsolete, too far behind to be useful for combat and unable to fit into a society they barely understand. The theme seems particularly appropriate these days. Soldiers in every war have faced this disorientation. Joe Haldeman has simply magnified the problem a thousandfold to emphasize it. Though volume 2 is the middle of the trilogy, it stands on its own fairly well. A good read, which I hope will inspire people to read the original novel.
Call number: PS3558.A353 L53 1990 (Click here for the library catalog record)
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth by Chris Ware
Review by Tom Dodson
Chris Ware’s almost four hundred page graphic novel presents a time-spanning and intergenerational story of broken relationships between fathers and sons. The tale ranges from the White City of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 to modern non-places such as airport lounges, office cubicles, and park benches in the shadow of block apartment buildings.
The focus of the story is Jimmy, a lonely and alienated man, who seeks to reconnect with an absent father. Ware doesn’t just show us the pathos of Jimmy’s humdrum life; he also reveals its uncommon beauty and hidden emotional intensity. The book is also intricately drawn and saturated with color–the canary glow of light from the window of an empty diner or the pale lavender of a snowy dusk falling over the ash-black silhouettes of street lights and telephone wires. Hailed by literary critics and art historians alike as a 20th century masterwork, Ware’s novel is a strange and welcoming world to enter anytime you have a chance to set the textbooks aside.
Call number: PN6727.W285 J56 2000 (Click here for library catalog record)
Ethel & Ernest: A True Story by Raymond Briggs
Review by Regina Raboin
Let me just admit this now…I love cartoons! I love to laugh, I need to laugh and I insist on my “daily dose” of “Zits”, “For Better or For Worse”, “Baby Blues”, “Non Sequitur”, “Doonesbury”…I can’t be held responsible for anything that happens during the day if I don’t read my cartoons. Anything by Gary Larson makes me start snorting and don’t even get me started on the cartoons of S. Harris!
I think this is because while growing up I, like others in my baby-boomer generation, read “Peanuts”, “Archie & Jughead”, and of course, all of the Marvel comics. But my parents wanted me to read better stuff–you know, the classics–and being an obedient, academically inclined kid, I did. You know them well, Alcott, Austen, Hemingway, O’Hara, Michener (ok, a little ‘light’ reading never hurt anyone), James, Fielding, Thurber, Buck, etc. – you get the picture. And as I matured and became “serious”, I began reading comic books less and less.
So when the call came out to read and review a “graphic novel”, I thought, why not? I know nothing about them and haven’t ever read any in Tisch Library’s collection. But the memories of my youth beckoned and I volunteered to review one. Not knowing anything about this new, yet old genre, I sought guidance from one of my more “with-it” colleagues and Ethel & Ernest: A True Story by Raymond Briggs was suggested. Now being a parent I knew about the author’s children’s books, such as The Snowman and Father Christmas, but didn’t know that he had authored and illustrated a graphic novel (doesn’t this name just conjure up visions of books wrapped in brown paper with warning labels?).
It is a beautiful novel. Briggs tells his parents’ story in text and illustrations of their romance and lives from the end of the Victorian Era, World War II, the Sixties, until their deaths in the early Seventies. I was charmed and moved by this book, especially with the way Briggs reveals their simple and uncluttered life though his illustrations. I was able to feel their grief when Ethel was told she could not have any more children; their helplessness when faced with more rationing and having to send their son away during World War II for his safety. His parent’s complementing personalities are wonderfully drawn…Ethel cautious, but very proud; Ernest fun-loving, yet slow to judge; and this comes out strongly in both his drawing and text. Some critics have said the book is too sentimental, but I disagree. It is a loving remembrance and celebration of who they were, how they influenced him and how their generation shaped the future world.
Perhaps it is time for me to go back to reading comic books, I mean graphic novels!
Call number: CT 788.B7742 B75 1999 (Click here for library catalog record)
The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Review by Abby Cross
What is it like to grow up female in Iran during the Islamic Revolution? At age 6, Marjane Satrapi was sure she was the “last prophet.” At play, she and her friends pretended to be Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. She was 9 years old when she was suddenly required to wear a veil in public. Her liberal and progressive-minded family protested in the streets and shared their politics with their daughter, whose views on the Revolution and her religion oscillated with the daily-changing tide of history. This autobiography shares not only the story of Satrapi, but also of the complicated history of her nation, which is too often “judged by the wrongdoings of a few extremists,” as Satrapi says in her introduction. The black-and-white drawings are clean and clear-cut, but also evocative and beautifully stylized in their simplicity. The marvelous story-telling is funny, tragic, hopeful, angst-ridden, joyous, and loving all at once–the gamut of realistic human emotion shown reminds the reader that no matter who and where they are, humans are still human.
This book was recently made into a fine animated movie, supervised by Satrapi herself; the book and the movie each manage to supplement the other, so I whole-heartedly recommend both.
Call number: PN6747.S245 P4713 2003 (Click here for library catalog record)
Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi
Review by Miriam Allman
This short book by the author of Persepolis provides a glimpse into the personal realm of Iranian women from several generations as they gossip over tea, revealing their experiences and thoughts about the men, sex, courtship and marriage in their lives. Their stories are sometimes hilarious, a bit risqué, occasionally poignant, and shed light on the sexual politics in a society where women outwardly lead very conservative lives. A quick fun read, illustrated with simple black and white drawings.
Call number: PN6747 S245 E42 2005 (Click here for library catalog record)
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Review by Miriam Allman
A silent story with no words told in lovely sepia pictures of a man’s immigration to a new land, and the adventures he has in trying to find a place to call home. Everything is odd and Tan has fully captured through his powerful illustrations the feeling of being in a strange new and bewildering world. Our man meets other immigrants who tell their own stories, establishes friendships, encounters mishaps, develops a fondness for the strange little white legged cat-like creature that has adopted him, and in the end finds a place for his family who eventually join him.
Although the book has been marketed as a children’s book, it can readily be appreciated by adults with its great emotional depth and its evocative and beautiful drawings – a rare gem indeed.
Call number: PZ7.7.T36 Ar 2007 (click here for catalog record)