maus book review bibliography

William’s summary bibliography focuses on book reviews of Maus. I’m glad he brings in a pretty disturbing review to show that some awful material exists out there.

William Parks
Dr. Brennan Collins
Contemporary American Ethnic Literature
September, 28, 2012

Summary Bibliography

Reilly, Janet. “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale.” The Journal For Historical Review 7.4 (1986): 478. Print.

“The Holocaust never happened the way we learned in school”(478). The aforementioned quote summarizes Reilly’s thoughts on Art Spiegelman’s comic book. Unfortunately, Reilly intends nearly every negative implication possible with that statement. She laughably highlights an imagined Jewish conspiracy to revise history, so that they can essentially control the media. According to her, The Jewish community wields their own victimization that they “extorted from American society” as a weapon to control the media(478). They attain an “untouchable” status, and are free to abuse positive imagery that can not possibly exist in a Jewish community(478). She complains the portrayal of Jews in Maus are too sympathetic, and they do not accurately represent Jewish people. Reilly later contradicts herself, and praises the emphasis on Vladek’s negative traits during some of the story. For example, she emphasizes that Vladek drove his wife to suicide. She implies that Jewish involvement in the Polish military, represented by Vladek in the story, brought about German aggression. Vladek’s admission of his waning memory is twisted by Reilly into evidence that the Holocaust was less horrific that history tells us. She also reminds us that Art dislikes his father’s resemblance to certain Jewish stereotypes. Because of this, she believes “that Jews have in fact even less difficulty than most people despising their own kin”(478). Reilly’s weak arguments and paranoid interpretations are almost comical, but disturbing all the same. Sentiment like hers originate in bigoted ideology rather than meaningful scrutiny. She does not actually contribute to any discussion of a literary work, but she does highlight a very harmful mindset that exists in American society.

Vanek, Allison. “Book Review: Maus- A Survivor’s Tale.” Paper Droids. Ariel Kroon. 2012. 29   September 2012.<>

Vanek initially focus on Maus’s significance within comic book literature. As she notes, comics were “a medium at the time thought to be trivial.” Some may see Spiegelman’s story as an attempt to trivialize the Holocaust itself, Vanek believes that is an unfortunate view of the text. Vanek believes that the “comic medium brings a new awareness to events that many of us have become desensitized to.” She supports her stance by highlighting how Spiegelman manipulates the formal elements of comics to inject meaning into his work. For example, the Jews are depicted as mice in the story. This imagery represents the harmful comparison of Jewish people to common pests. Vanek explains that Jews were seen as “filthy, they bred constantly, and they were everywhere, underfoot, getting in places they didn’t belong.” This sentiment was marketed during World War II in Germany, and it helped to justify atrocities committed against a people. Naturally, the Germans are depicted as cats. American liberators, as she points out, are depicted as dogs because dogs stereotypically chase cats. The Polish are shown as pigs which is “a harsh critique of how the Poles surrendered too easily like pigs for slaughter.” She does maintain that the comic’s point was not “enforce the Nazi’s racist stereotypes, but rather to have them self-destruct.” She references Spiegelman’s use of animal masks, and his agony over how to depict his wife. She is a French woman who converts to Judaism, so Art ultimately draws her as a mouse. Vanek ends by applauding the creative storytelling of Maus, and encourages readers to keep an open mind.

Garbett, Ann D. “Maus.” Magill’S Choice: Holocaust Literature (2008): 1-3. Literary Reference Center. Web. 25 October 2012    <>

Garbett begins with a brief synopsis of Spiegelman’s work, Maus. She also explain some of the    symbolism used in the comic. She notes that the Germans are portrayed as cats while the Jews  are portrayed as mice. These animal depictions, as she shows, describe the “years of hiding and    narrow escapes that almost all Holocaust survivors endured.” Despite this comic book style, Spiegelman does not want to trivialize the Holocaust or the experiences of those invovled. Garbett tells us that this style is the only way to get the reader to connect on an emotional level to something so horrendous to the modern day world. After some expanded summary, Garbett also elaborates on Spiegelman’s  struggle with representation. He worries that his father is very stereotypical, but must to tell his father’s story all the same.

Michelle Miller Detwiler. “A review of Maus: A Survivor’s Tale.” Books I Loved .com 2002 29 September 2012 <>

Detwiler opens by differentiating Spiegelman’s comic book from the popular superhero genre of comic most people are familiar with. She celebrates the artwork in the book, saying it is  “detailed and complex.” Interestingly enough, this opinion goes against the usual observation that Spiegelman used little detail in the book. In fact, she actually agrees with this in part of her review. She says the book features “stark black-and-white pictures”, which contradicts her assertion that the book is so vividly illustrated. Detwiler believes does an excellent job of eliciting sympathy from the reader. The Jewish mice have a “justifiable anger at the German cats.” It is hard to conceive of a person that would blame a Holocaust victim for lashing out at German ideals, but it seems like Detwiler is simply commenting on the effectiveness of Spiegelman’s storytelling. She appreciates the cause-and-effect relationship as it is demonstrated through individual experiences. The Germans aren’t presented as an unseen force, but rather a individuals committing atrocities to other individuals. She lauds the attempts at humor and comments that there are some heartfelt moments in the story. It is difficult to feel the tragedy of situation when there is no reference for a different, happier moment.

Wilson, Chris. “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale.” The Graphic Classroom. Chris Wilson. 2007 29 September     2012 <>

Wilson enthusiastically proclaims Spiegelman’s book a succes, claiming that Spiegelman “climbs the rope and rings the bell with this Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel about the Holocaust and his parents who endured it all.” He begins by examining the “two tales of woe” in the story. Maus is as much a tale of Anja’s and Vladek’s survival as it is about the “ramifications that befell the Spiegelman clan after the war.” Wilson believes that Art is attempting to highlight faults in his “family structure.” These faults, rooted in sorrow, stretch the limits of Art’s relationship with his father. As Wilson states, “Maus is painful to watch, painful to read, painful to experience.” This pain exerts control of the father and flows down to the generation of the son. This pain causes the resilient Anja to take her own life, even after she survives such a horrendous ordeal as the Holocaust. The pain is also reflected at others, as when Vladek expresses his distrust of African Americans. According to Wilson, the hypocrisy   and strange situations that pain puts these characters into makes this story feel real. Wilson also comments, as most do, about the effect of the comic medium on a story such as this. Wilson believes that Spiegelman juxtaposes simple characters with complex backgrounds to bring the reader into the place of characters. Certain theories hold that the more intricate characterdrawings in mainstream comics, such as those by Alex Ross, create distance between the reader and the character. The character is so well-defined visually that the reader can not identify her own traits in the character. This is not inherently bad, but may not have served Spiegelman’s purpose.

Leave a Reply