Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Art Spiegelman, best known for his groundbreaking graphic novel Maus, visited the Regina A. Quick Center on October 18. Spiegelman discussed several prominent influences on the style and form of his cartooning in a forum entitled “Surviving Maus: Visualizing the Unimaginable.”

The event also focused on the recent violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip. Prior to Spiegelman’s appearance, Philip Eliasoph PhD., thanked the Jewish Federation of Greater Fairfield County for their help in organizing the event. The audience then stood for a video rendition of Hatikvah, the national anthem of Israel.

Spiegelman’s conversation with Dr. Eliasoph and the audience incorporated works from many prominent political cartoonists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Among the most discussed were the cartoons of Arthur Szyk, whose political cartoons advocated for intervention in the Second World War.

Before the main event, The Rearview joined members of Dr. Glenn Dynner’s course, the Jewish Literature of Modernity, for an exclusive Q&A session with Spiegelman. The cartoonist opened up about what it was like to finally learn about his parents’ experiences during the Holocaust.

“You have to understand that the topic wasn’t really mentioned when I was growing up,” Spiegelman said. “My mother would mention Birkenau in passing but never go further. My father never talked about it; he believed ‘nobody’ would want to hear such stories.’”

When Spiegelman did finally sit down with his father in the late 1970s and early 1980s to record his memories for what would become Maus, the process was cathartic. “I didn’t do Maus for other people. I didn’t expect a Pulitzer Prize,” he said. “I did it for me, to get some closure.”

Among Spiegelman’s most passionate causes over the past several years has been his crusade against book bannings in schools, particularly in Tennessee. Although he still does not consider Maus a book for children and young adults, Spiegelman nevertheless feels that book bannings only serve to protect children from uncomfortable dialogues about important issues.

“The decision to ban Maus supposedly had nothing to do with the fact that it could make readers uncomfortable,” he said. “The actual reason given was that one panel contains a naked woman which, by the way, is from a comic that depicts my mother’s suicide in a bathtub. That was just too much to bear.”

Spiegelman closed the forum with a frank discussion of the importance of free speech both in society and the public school system in particular.

“If you don’t want your kid to read something, that’s fine. Just don’t ruin it for all the other kids in the process,” he remarked.

Information about future events is available on the Quick Center’s Website.

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