Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel (2006)

The always amazing A. recently lent me her copy of Alison Bechdel's graphic novel Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006), and I'm so so glad she did, because this is one I've been wanting to read for awhile. Bechdel is the author of the "Dykes to Watch Out For" comic strip, which is also excellent, and which really made me want to read this more personal work.

Fun Home is a memoir about Bechdel's childhood, coming of age, and her relationship with her father. Bechdel's coming out to her family in college was immediately followed by the news that her mother was leaving her father, and that her father was gay. A few weeks after that, at the age of 44, her father was dead after stepping in front of a bread truck while doing yard work. The evidence is inconclusive, but Bechdel believes that her father committed suicide and Fun Home, in part, looks back over her father's life and their time together and tries to come to terms with their past and his death.

Bechdel reveals this very personal story with a compelling sense of self-awareness and perspective. Events are presented and then revisited, background details highlight the difference between what the child and adult Bechdel see, and visuals of everyday scenes underlie the revealing and sometimes upsetting text.

Overall Fun Home really is a tragicomic -- a memoir filled with the comedy of adolescence and childhood memory, but washed over by the tragedy of her father's death. As soon as I finished it, I wanted to read the whole thing again and soak up more of the detailed drawings (which, incidentally, is exactly what A. said to me when she finished it). You should probably read this one.

[for a sense of Bechdel's amazing art work, check out the Google Books version.]

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