A memoir of Vladek Spiegleman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and about his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father, his story, and history. Cartoon format portrays Jews as mice, Nazis as cats. Using a unique comic-strip-as-graphic-art format, the story of Vladek Spiegelman’s passage through the Nazi Holocaust is told in his own words. Acclaimed as a “quiet triumph” and a “brutally moving work of art,” the first volume of Art Spiegelman’s Maus introduced readers to Vladek Spiegelman, 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. As the New York Times Book Review commented,” [it is] a remarkable feat of documentary detail and novelistic vividness…an unfolding literary event.” This long-awaited sequel, 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. Vladek’s troubled remarriage, minor arguments between father and son, and life’s everyday disappointments are all set against a backdrop of history too large to pacify. At every level this is the ultimate survivor’s tale — and that too of the children who somehow survive even the survivors.
Kidnapped and sold into slavery in the American South, freeman Solomon Northup spent twelve years in bondage before being freed. Twelve Years a Slave is Northup’s moving memoir, revealing unimaginable details of the horrors he faced as a slave on Southern plantations, and his unshakable belief that he would return home to his family.
Written in the year after Northup was freed and published in the wake of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Northup’s story was quickly taken up by abolitionist groups and news organizations as part of the fight against slavery, and continues to resonate more than a century after the end of the American Civil War.
For what purpose and for whom has biographical pursuit endured, and how does it play such a contested, popular role in contemporary Western culture, from biopics to blogs, memoirs to docudramas? Award-winning biographer Hamilton addresses these questions in an incisive and vivid narrative that will appeal to students of human nature and self-representation across the arts and sciences.
John Winthrop (1588-1649) was the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and is generally considered the principal architect of early New England society. He led the colonists through the initial struggles to survive in a new world, shaped the political organizations that gave the colonists the right to govern themselves through elected governors and representatives, worked to mediate between those who advanced radical religious and political ideas on the one hand and those who sought a very narrowly defined orthodoxy, and contributed to the development of a system of education which insured the preservation of the founders’ heritage.
The details of this brief biography is drawn from the author’s larger, prize-winning study, John Winthrop: America’s Forgotten Founding Father (Oxford University Press, 2003), though modified in minor ways by his ongoing research. To render it more accessible to an undergraduate audience, Bremer avoids in-depth discussion of theology and other specialized topics and focus instead on trying to provide students with an appreciation of how Winthrop’s world differed from theirs, but how at the same time he dealt with issues that continue to resonate in our own society. In placing his life in the context of the times, Bremer discusses Winthrop’s family life and the challenges of life faced by men, women, and children in the seventeenth century. The key themes that are integrated into the biographical narrative are how Winthrop’s religion was shaped by the times and in turn how it influenced his family life and the moral outlook that he brought to his political career; his understanding of society as a community in which individuals had to subordinate their individual goals to the advancement of the common good; and his struggle to define where the line needed to be drawn between new or different ideas that enriched religious and political growth, and those that threatened the stability of a society.