The first graphic novel I ever read was actually 2 graphic novels: Maus, I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History and Maus II : And Here My Troubles Began.
I was about sixteen or seventeen and deeply immersed in Holocaust literature and memoirs. I am pretty sure if was part of my religious school education, not my public school. I was one of those kids who continued religious school through high school graduation and got college credit for it. The curriculum for those classes was intense, but not as intense as it would be in college. The Holocaust was a common theme for these classes. I believe it still is.
What struck me was the way Spiegelman used different animals to identify different nationalities: mice were the Jews and cats were the Germans for example. It made it easier to identify people trying to hide or simply distinguishing large groups of people who have nothing to distinguish difference beyond ideologies. What I enjoyed was how Spiegelman was able to use illustration to show what is happening in someone’s head. It was a much more succinct way to doing inner monologue and inner turmoil.
I still have my original copies of Maus 1 and 2. They were the copies I first read. I re-read them a few years later before I went to Poland and saw the concentration camps. I re-re-read them when I was at Fitchburg State and we did the Judaica graphic novel series a few years ago. I suspect they will be books that never, ever leave my collection. They signify so much beyond simple books.
On Friday I will give you a list of suggested graphic novels.