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The Graphic Truth: Biography and Memoir

When most people think of comic books and graphic novels, they usually think of storylines involving superheroes, science fiction, or fantasy. But there is also a thriving world of graphic nonfiction, and some of these titles have become bestsellers and won major book awards.

The roots of nonfiction graphic literature lie in the underground comics movement of the 1960s and 1970s and the work of R. Crumb, Harvey Pekar, and others, who sought to escape the formulaic confines of traditional comics and targeted an adult readership. The late Pekar’s long-running American Splendor series (written by Pekar and drawn by others, including Crumb) documents his humdrum life in Cleveland as a VA file clerk, among other things.

A key work in the development of graphic literature was Art Spiegelman’s Maus, which presents the harrowing story of his parents’ ordeal as Holocaust victims in Nazi-occupied Poland. In 1992 Maus became the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Since Maus, a lot of the most interesting graphic nonfiction has tended to be in the genre of biography and memoir. Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, a frank memoir of family life, was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics’ Circle Award. Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis depicts her youth in Iran during the turmoil of the Islamic Revolution and her life as a student in Europe. Published just this year is New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, about her struggles to help care for her elderly and infirm parents.

The following is a list of notable graphic biographies and memoirs in Richland Library’s collection. Later on we will look at graphic nonfiction in the areas of history, science, and current events.


Amazon Says: #1 New York Times Bestseller2014 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD LONGLIST FOR NONFICTIONIn her first memoir, Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the more...
Amazon Says: #1 New York Times Bestseller2014 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD LONGLIST FOR NONFICTIONIn her first memoir, Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, and a narrative as rife with laughs as it is with tears, Chast’s memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents.When it came to her elderly mother and father, Roz held to the practices of denial, avoidance, and distraction. But when Elizabeth Chast climbed a ladder to locate an old souvenir from the “crazy closet”—with predictable results—the tools that had served Roz well through her parents’ seventies, eighties, and into their early nineties could no longer be deployed.While the particulars are Chast-ian in their idiosyncrasies—an anxious father who had relied heavily on his wife for stability as he slipped into dementia and a former assistant principal mother whose overbearing personality had sidelined Roz for decades—the themes are universal: adult children accepting a parental role; aging and unstable parents leaving a family home for an institution; dealing with uncomfortable physical intimacies; managing logistics; and hiring strangers to provide the most personal care.An amazing portrait of two lives at their end and an only child coping as best she can, Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant will show the full range of Roz Chast’s talent as cartoonist and storyteller. less...
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Feynman by Jim Ottaviani
Amazon Says: Richard Feynman: physicist . . . Nobel winner . . . bestselling author . . . safe-cracker. In this substantial graphic novel biography, First Second presents the larger-than-l more...
Amazon Says: Richard Feynman: physicist . . . Nobel winner . . . bestselling author . . . safe-cracker. In this substantial graphic novel biography, First Second presents the larger-than-life exploits of Nobel-winning quantum physicist, adventurer, musician, world-class raconteur, and one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century: Richard Feynman. Written by nonfiction comics mainstay Jim Ottaviani and brilliantly illustrated by First Second author Leland Myrick, Feynman tells the story of the great man’s life from his childhood in Long Island to his work on the Manhattan Project and the Challenger disaster. Ottaviani tackles the bad with the good, leaving the reader delighted by Feynman’s exuberant life and staggered at the loss humanity suffered with his death. Anyone who ever wanted to know more about Richard P. Feynman, quantum electrodynamics, the fine art of the bongo drums, the outrageously obscure nation of Tuva, or the development and popularization of the field of physics in the United States need look no further than this rich and joyful work. One of School Library Journal’s Best Adult Books 4 Teens titles of 2011 One of Horn Book’s Best Nonfiction Books of 2011 less...
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Amazon Says: Winner of the 2013 Eisner Award for Best Reality-Based Work! The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song is a rich and compelling original graphic novel that tells the s more...
Amazon Says: Winner of the 2013 Eisner Award for Best Reality-Based Work! The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song is a rich and compelling original graphic novel that tells the story of the Carter Family—the first superstar group of country music—who made hundreds of recordings and sold millions of records. Many of their hit songs, such as “Wildwood Flower” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” have influenced countless musicians and remain timeless country standards. The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song is not only a unique illustrated biography, but a moving account that reveals the family’s rise to success, their struggles along the way, and their impact on contemporary music. Illustrated with exacting detail and written in the Southern dialect of the time, its dynamic narrative is pure Americana. It is also a story of success and failure, of poverty and wealth, of racism and tolerance, of creativity and business, and of the power of music and love. Includes bonus CD with original Carter Family music. Praise for The Carter Family: "What a fine marriage of form and content! Humble and moving—straightforward with occasional breathtaking bravura passages—this book echoes the Carter Family's rough-hewn sounds. It tells of the lives, sorrows, and values of a lost America in short episodes like a giant stack of old 78s. Using the vocabulary of comic strips like Little Orphan Annie and Gasoline Alley, it's as obsessive in its dedication to vernacular craft and hard work as A.P. Carter himself. Frank Young and David Lasky have spun a work of visual music that will replay in your head and heart well after you've finished reading it."—Art Spiegelman, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer/artist of Maus “Charming, faithful, and resonant . . . will charm the pants off you.” —The Comics Journal “Lasky’s gorgeous artwork animates the story and evokes a mood that mirrors the era and the music.” —NPR.org “Pure pleasure for anyone interested in music history.” —The Seattle Times “Cracking open The Carter Family feels like putting on a vintage 78: moody hearty Americana emanates hauntingly. Enlivening this graphic biography of the legendary country music family are both Frank M. Young’s dialogue, which replicates the vernacular to a T but oh so naturally, and David Lasky’s understated and elegant illustrations which resonate like the music they depict.” —HeebMagazine.com   less...
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A Chinese Life by Philippe Otie
Amazon Says: A Chinese Life is an astonishing graphic novel set against the backdrop of the creation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. This distinctively drawn work chronicles t more...
Amazon Says: A Chinese Life is an astonishing graphic novel set against the backdrop of the creation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. This distinctively drawn work chronicles the rise and reign of Chairman Mao Zedong, and his sweeping, often cataclysmic vision for the most populated country on the planet. Though the storyline is epic, the storytelling is intimate, reflecting the real life of the book’s artist. Li Kunwu spent more than 30 years as a state artist for the Communist Party. He saw firsthand what was happening to his family, his neighbors, and his homeland during this extraordinary time. Working with Philippe Ôtié, the artist has created a memoir of self and state, a rich, very human account of a major historical moment with contemporary consequences. Mao said, “The masses are the real heroes,” but A Chinese Life shows those masses as real people. Praise for A Chinese Life: “This is an absorbing book—all 700 pages of it—reminiscent at times of Zhang Yimou’s epic Chinese history film To Live, and reminiscent at others of George Orwell’s 1984, recast as non-fiction.” —The Onion’s A.V. Club less...
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Amazon Says: This graphic novel is based on Lincoln’s battle with depression. The debut graphic novel from Noah Van Sciver follows the twentysomething Abraham Lincoln as he loses everyth more...
Amazon Says: This graphic novel is based on Lincoln’s battle with depression. The debut graphic novel from Noah Van Sciver follows the twentysomething Abraham Lincoln as he loses everything, long before becoming our most beloved president. Lincoln is a rising Whig in the state’s legislature as he arrives in Springfield, IL to practice law. With all of his possessions under his arms in two saddlebags, he is quickly given a place to stay by a womanizing young bachelor who becomes his friend and close confidant. Lincoln builds a life and begins friendships with the town’s top lawyers and politicians. He attends elegant dances and meets an independent-minded young woman from a high-society Kentucky family, and after a brisk courtship, becomes engaged. But, as time passes and uncertainty creeps in, young Lincoln is forced to battle a dark cloud of depression brought on by a chain of defeats and failures culminating into a nervous breakdown that threatens his life and sanity. This cloud of dark depression Lincoln calls “The Hypo.” Dense crosshatching and an attention to detail help bring together this completely original telling of a man driven by an irrepressible desire to pull himself up by his bootstraps, overcome all obstacles, and become the person he strives to be. All the while, unknowingly laying the foundation of character he would use as one of America’s greatest presidents. Yes less...
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Amazon Says: iMac, iTunes, iPod, iPhone, iPad, iCon! Steve Jobs and his inventions changed the world we live in. His extraordinary life story is brimming with passion, innovation and creat more...
Amazon Says: iMac, iTunes, iPod, iPhone, iPad, iCon! Steve Jobs and his inventions changed the world we live in. His extraordinary life story is brimming with passion, innovation and creative genius. Share his triumphs and failures, as we journey from his birth and his adoption, through the advent of the computer age and on into the digital age. Forced out of the company he created, his indomitable vision allowed him to change the world of computers, movies, music and telecommunications. Prepare to be inspired, by a man who dared to think different...  less...
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The Adventures of Herge by Jose-Louis Bocquet
Amazon Says: A GRAPHIC BIOGRAPHY OF TINTIN’S CREATOR by Jose-Louis Bocquet and Jean-Luc Fromental, Illustrated by Stanislas Barthélémy The Adventures of Hergé is a biographical comic more...
Amazon Says: A GRAPHIC BIOGRAPHY OF TINTIN’S CREATOR by Jose-Louis Bocquet and Jean-Luc Fromental, Illustrated by Stanislas Barthélémy The Adventures of Hergé is a biographical comic about the world-renowned comics artist Georges Prosper Remi, better known by his pen name, Hergé. Meticulously researched, with references to many of the Tintin albums and complete with a bibliography and mini-bios for each of the main "characters," the biography is appropriately drawn in Hergé’s iconic clear line style as an homage to the Tintin adventures that have commanded the attention of readers across the world and of many generations. Seven-year-old Hergé first discovered his love of drawing in 1914 when his mother gave him some crayons to stay out of trouble. He continued drawing in school when he fatefully met the editor of XXe Siècle magazine, where Tintin first appeared. His popularity skyrocketed from the 1930s through post–World War Two. Hergé was perceived by some to have aided the Nazi government in Belgium by continuing to publish Tintin in a government-sanctioned magazine, and he was briefly imprisoned in the aftermath of the war and narrowly escaped execution. Also covered are his marriage troubles in the 1950s and subsequent affair with Fanny Vlamynck, who went on to become his lifelong partner; his late career in the 1960s, as his interest in Tintin waned and he occasionally "disappeared" for weeks at a time as he contemplated giving up his career to become a fine-arts painter; and a recounting of a humorous encounter with Andy Warhol. less...
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Kiki de Montparnasse by Catel Muller
Amazon Says: In bohemian Montparnasse of the 1920s, Kiki escaped poverty to become one of the most charismatic figures of the avant-garde years between the wars. Partner to Man Ray, and on more...
Amazon Says: In bohemian Montparnasse of the 1920s, Kiki escaped poverty to become one of the most charismatic figures of the avant-garde years between the wars. Partner to Man Ray, and one of the first emancipated women of the 20th century, Kiki made her mark with her freedom of style, word, and thought that could be learned from only one school—the school of life. Praise for Kiki de Montparnasse: “The tipsily enthusiastic wobble of Catel’s line work gives even the more emotionally fraught scenes a winning, festive quality.” —New York Times “The toast of France, Catel Muller and José-Louis Bocquet’s award-winning graphic novel Kiki de Montparnasse (Abrams/SelfMadeHero) . . . seduces American audiences with its artful and heartbreaking portrait of one of the most famous muses of the 20th century.” —VanityFair.com “An excellent companion to readers of Anaïs Nin, Simone de Beauvoir, and other of Kiki’s less flamboyant contemporaries.” —Booklist “This award-winning French graphic novel presents a story as vibrant and mesmerizing as its famed bohemian subject.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review) less...
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Amazon Says: A graphic novel biography of Puerto Rico's greatest baseball star. 21 is an all-ages graphic biography of baseball star Roberto Clemente: No other baseball player dominated th more...
Amazon Says: A graphic novel biography of Puerto Rico's greatest baseball star. 21 is an all-ages graphic biography of baseball star Roberto Clemente: No other baseball player dominated the 1960s like him and no other Latin American player achieved his numbers. 21 chronicles his early days growing up in rural Puerto Rico, the highlights of his career (including the 1960s World Series), the prejudice he faced, his private life and his humanitarian mission. Santiago captures the grit of Clemente's rise from his impoverished childhood, to the majesty of his performance on the field, to his fundamental decency as a human being, in a drawing style that combines realistic attention to detail and expressive cartooning. less...
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Amazon Says: This special edition of a Fantagraphics classic is now being offered at a special price. Ho Che Anderson has spent over 10 years researching, writing, and drawing King, a monu more...
Amazon Says: This special edition of a Fantagraphics classic is now being offered at a special price. Ho Che Anderson has spent over 10 years researching, writing, and drawing King, a monumental graphic biography that liberates Martin Luther King Jr. from the saintly, one-dimensional, hagiographic image so prevalent in pop culture. Here is King—father, husband, politician, deal broker, idealist, pragmatist, inspiration to millions—brought to vivid, flesh-and-blood life. Out of print since 2006, King is Fantagraphics' most-requested reprint. In recognition of the advances made in American social equality that has made it possible to elect America’s first black President, Fantagraphics Books is publishing King: The Special Edition, a newly designed volume that includes the original 240-page graphic biography, as well as nearly a hundred additional pages of “extras,” including: “Black Dogs” is a 14-page prelude to King, a dialogue between a young black couple expecting a child, living in LA in the aftermath of the Rodney King upheaval, a raw and inflected conversation between husband and wife and their racial attitudes in a post-King world; Excerpts from the diary and notebook the author kept when researching and writing King, with interstitial notes written specifically for this volume commenting on the method he used to conceived and execute the book; Preparatory sketches, discarded images and pages, an interview conducted at the time of the third volume’s publication, and excerpts from the draft of the script; An epilogue titled “Assassin,” written and drawn for this new edition, in which Anderson explores the question of whether James Earl Ray actually shot King. Caroline Longstreet, one of the observers who comments on King’s life throughout the book, is obsessed with the assassination, won’t let it rest, and pursues her own private investigation and ultimately confronts the reasons why it’s held her in its grip so long. Anderson’s biography traces King’s life from his childhood in Atlanta and his education at Booker T. Washington High School, and his subsequent centrality to the civil rights movement when, in 1955, he organized the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott; his founding of the Southern Christian leadership Conference in 1957; his Nobel Prize in 1964; his help in organizing the 1966 March on Washington and his “I Have a Dream” speech; and the tragic moment on April 4, 1968 when he was shot dead on the balcony of the Loraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. Anderson’s expressionistic visual style is wrought with dramatic energy; panels evoke a painterly attention to detail but whose juxtapositions propel King’s story with cinematic momentum. Anderson’s successful use of the comics form to tell a major work of nonfiction has drawn favorable comparisons to Art Spiegelman’s Maus: A Survivor’s Tale and Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Gorazde: The War In Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995. King won a 1995 Parents’ Choice Award. Full-color throughout less...
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Amazon Says: FOR USE IN SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES ONLY. Draws on the archives of the Anne Frank house to relate her life in graphic novel format. more...
Amazon Says: FOR USE IN SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES ONLY. Draws on the archives of the Anne Frank house to relate her life in graphic novel format. less...
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Amazon Says: Trotsky was a hero to some, a ruthless demon to others. To Stalin, he was such a threat that he warranted murder by pickax. This polarizing figure set up a world conflict that more...
Amazon Says: Trotsky was a hero to some, a ruthless demon to others. To Stalin, he was such a threat that he warranted murder by pickax. This polarizing figure set up a world conflict that lasted through the twentieth century, and in Trotsky: A Graphic Biography, the renowned comic artist Rick Geary uses his distinct style to depict the stark reality of the man and his times. Trotsky’s life becomes a guide to the creation of the Soviet Union, the horrors of World War I, and the establishment of international communism as he, Lenin, and their fellow Bolsheviks rise from persecution and a life underground to the height of political power. Ranging from his boyhood in the Ukraine to his fallout with Stalin and his moonlight romance with Frida Kahlo, Trotsky is a stunning look at one of the twentieth century’s most important thinkers and the far-reaching political trends that he launched. less...
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Amazon Says: The first and only illustrated biography of "The Man in Black", Johnny Cash, the most famous country singer of all time Cash was a 17-time Grammy winner who sold more than 90 more...
Amazon Says: The first and only illustrated biography of "The Man in Black", Johnny Cash, the most famous country singer of all time Cash was a 17-time Grammy winner who sold more than 90 million albums in his lifetime and became an icon of American music in the 20th century. Graphic novelist Reinhard Kleist depicts Johnny Cash’s eventful life from his early sessions with Elvis Presley (1956), through the concert in Folsom Prison (1968), his spectacular comeback in the 1990s, and the final years before his death on September 12, 2003. Already a bestseller and award-winner in Europe, Johnny Cash: I See a Darkness vividly portrays the unpredictable life of a loner, patriot, outlaw, and music rebel, making this unique biography a compelling read for multiple generations of graphic novel and music fans. less...
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Thoreau at Walden by John Porcellino
Amazon Says: “I am convinced, both by faith and experience, that to maintain one’s self on this earth is not a hardship, but a pastime, if we will live simply and wisely.” So said He more...
Amazon Says: “I am convinced, both by faith and experience, that to maintain one’s self on this earth is not a hardship, but a pastime, if we will live simply and wisely.” So said Henry David Thoreau in 1845 when he began his famous experiment in living on Walden Pond. In this graphic masterpiece, John Porcellino uses only the words of Thoreau himself to tell the story of those two years off the beaten track. The pared-down text focuses on Thoreau’s most profound ideas, and Porcellino’s fresh, simple pictures bring the philosopher’s sojourn at Walden to cinematic life. For readers who know Walden intimately, this graphic treatment will provide a vivid new interpretation of Thoreau’s story. For those who have never read (or never completed!) the original, it presents a contemporary look at a few brave words to live by.  less...
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Amazon Says: Written by Harvey Pekar Cover by Dean Haspiel Art by Haspiel, Eddie Campbell, Ty Templeton and others Harvey Pekar returns to celebrate 30 years of autobiographical comics w more...
Amazon Says: Written by Harvey Pekar Cover by Dean Haspiel Art by Haspiel, Eddie Campbell, Ty Templeton and others Harvey Pekar returns to celebrate 30 years of autobiographical comics with his newest volume collecting the 4-issue acclaimed miniseries. Advance-solicited; on sale April 7 - 136 pg, B&W, $14.99 US - MATURE READERS less...
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The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Amazon Says: Here, in one volume: Marjane Satrapi's best-selling, internationally acclaimed memoir-in-comic-strips. Persepolis is the story of Satrapi's unforgettable childhood and coming more...
Amazon Says: Here, in one volume: Marjane Satrapi's best-selling, internationally acclaimed memoir-in-comic-strips. Persepolis is the story of Satrapi's unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming--both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up. Edgy, searingly observant, and candid, often heartbreaking but threaded throughout with raw humor and hard-earned wisdom--Persepolis is a stunning work from one of the most highly regarded, singularly talented graphic artists at work today. less...
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Amazon Says: Anyone who knows R. Crumb’s work as an illustrator knows of his passion for music. And all those who collect his work prize the Heroes of the Blues, Early Jazz Greats, and more...
Amazon Says: Anyone who knows R. Crumb’s work as an illustrator knows of his passion for music. And all those who collect his work prize the Heroes of the Blues, Early Jazz Greats, and Pioneers of Country Music trading card sets he created in the early to- mid-1980s. Now they are packaged together for the first time in book form, along with an exclusive 21-track CD of music selected and compiled by Crumb himself (featuring original recordings by Charley Patton, “Dock” Boggs, “Jelly Roll” Morton, and others). A bio of each musician is provided, along with a full-color original illustration by the cartoonist. A characteristically idiosyncratic tribute by an underground icon to the musical innovators who helped inspire him, R. Crumb’s Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country is a must-have collection for Crumb aficionados, comics fans, and music lovers alike. less...
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Amazon Says: A fresh and brilliantly told memoir from a cult favorite comic artist, marked by gothic twists, a family funeral home, sexual angst, and great books. This breakout book by Al more...
Amazon Says: A fresh and brilliantly told memoir from a cult favorite comic artist, marked by gothic twists, a family funeral home, sexual angst, and great books. This breakout book by Alison Bechdel is a darkly funny family tale, pitch-perfectly illustrated with Bechdel's sweetly gothic drawings. Like Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, it's a story exhilaratingly suited to graphic memoir form. Meet Alison's father, a historic preservation expert and obsessive restorer of the family's Victorian home, a third-generation funeral home director, a high school English teacher, an icily distant parent, and a closeted homosexual who, as it turns out, is involved with his male students and a family babysitter. Through narrative that is alternately heartbreaking and fiercely funny, we are drawn into a daughter's complex yearning for her father. And yet, apart from assigned stints dusting caskets at the family-owned "fun home," as Alison and her brothers call it, the relationship achieves its most intimate expression through the shared code of books. When Alison comes out as homosexual herself in late adolescense, the denouement is swift, graphic -- and redemptive. less...
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Amazon Says: A story of a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Europe and his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father's story and history itself. more...
Amazon Says: A story of a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Europe and his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father's story and history itself. less...
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Amazon Says: ***WINNER OF THE 1992 PULIZTER PRIZE*** Acclaimed as a quiet triumph and a brutally moving work of art, the first volume of Art Spiegelman's Mausintroduced readers to more...
Amazon Says: ***WINNER OF THE 1992 PULIZTER PRIZE*** Acclaimed as a quiet triumph and a brutally moving work of art, the first volume of Art Spiegelman's Mausintroduced readers to Vladek Spieglman, 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. Mausties together two powerful stories: Vladek's harrowing take of survival against all odds, delineating the paradox of family 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. less...
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