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OneBook's prejudice theme teaches lessons


ome people worried when Maus: A Survivor’s Tale was selected for the 2007-08 OneBook program. Would the subject—the Holocaust—be too upsetting? Would a graphic novel, which looks like a comic book, be taken seriously?

A student reads 'Maus: A Survivor's Tale'
"Students overwhelmingly reported that they loved Maus and that they learned a great deal about critical reading."

- Margaret Lowry,
first-year English director

“We needn’t have been concerned,” says English Professor Laurin Porter, program co-chair with Dawn Remmers, director of University Advising, Student Success and Testing Services. “Students responded with great enthusiasm to the work itself and what it had to teach them.”

In Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, Art Spiegelman tells and illustrates his own story of interviewing his father about his Holocaust experiences.

The OneBook program produced both a reader’s guide and a flier, “A Guide to Reading Graphic Novels,” to help students appreciate the complexity and sophistication of the combination of text and images that these artists use to tell their stories.

“Students overwhelmingly reported that they loved Maus and that they learned a great deal about critical reading by analyzing Spiegelman’s use of text and illustrations to make his argument,” said Margaret Lowry, director of first-year English.

The University hosted several events in conjunction with the OneBook program and its prejudice theme. In September, Holocaust survivors William and Rosalie Schiff delivered what Dr. Porter called a “very moving” presentation, and history Associate Professor Thomas Adam gave a background lecture on the Holocaust. Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker spoke on prejudice in the spring, and Freshman Leaders on Campus worked to provide aid to Darfur.

Porter, who is retiring this summer after 22 years on the English faculty, recently stepped down as co-chair of the OneBook program, which she helped start in 2006. Spanish Associate Professor Chris Conway is the new co-chair.

The 2008-09 OneBook selection, The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, profiles several seemingly unrelated people through the eyes of four narrators. The award-winning book has been translated into more than 25 languages.

— Jim Patterson

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