Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fun Home - Alison Bechdel


Time sure flies when you're having fun! Which has been the case with my brief dalliance with graphic novels. I signed up, timidly, to read three this year for the Graphic Novel Challenge. And even though this novel, "Fun Home", theoretically wraps up that challenge, I know this is not the end of graphic novels for me. I'm hooked.

I remember reading all about Alison Bechdel in Entertainment Weekly several years ago when this book was originally published. Several fellow bloggers have since reviewed it, and it seemed like a no-brainer in my pursuit of graphic novel education. It is called a "tragicomic". Which in hindsight, seems to well describe "Stitches" too. Bechdel, with open heart and open-book mentality, tells us about her childhood.

Her younger years did have their high points, but overall, Alison and her two younger brothers lived under a storm cloud of dysfunction. Their mother and father emotionally detached from each other, their father's obsession with restoring their old home and filling it with beautiful antiques, and of course the family business of running a funeral home (called the Fun Home tongue-in-cheek by the family).

Everything starts to spiral downward when, within a two-week time period during Alison's college years, Alison's mother asks her father for a divorce, Alison reveals to her parents that she is a lesbian, and her father dies from a suspicious accident that could have been a suicide. Was her mother to blame? Was she to blame? Or was this an event that was long in coming?

Alison spends a majority of the book reflecting back on the difficulty in coming to terms with her sexuality and her awakening, the emotional distance between her and her father, and her attempt to bridge the gap through the love of literature. She also attempts to understand and make peace with skeletons in her father's closet, and empathize and even perhaps forgive him for his demons.



The illustrations are much different - more detail and less drama - than Stitches. While the drawings are good, they are not at all the highlight of the book. The beauty really lies in the prose, which is literary, intelligent, insightful. There is also beauty in Alison's refreshing, no-holds-barred honesty about a number of difficult and controversial issues in her life. While tell-all books about childhood trauma are a dime-a-dozen, reading it and SEEING it illustrated are two different experiences. This can't have been an easy project for her to undertake.

I feel it bears mentioning that some of the pictures depict masturbation and lesbian sex. It never seems vulgar, but is for mature audiences. Don't leave it lying around for the kids to read!

4 out of 5 stars




18 comments:

Susan said...

It has always been fascinating to me that children who come from dysfunctional families, especially ones whose parents didn't readily show affection for them, can manage to pull a life together. And how some don't. Family dynamics are very interesting to me.

diaryofaneccentric said...

Sounds like she had a rough life. I still haven't jumped on the graphic novel bandwagon, and I don't know why. Guess I just have to make time for one.

--Anna

Jeane said...

I've just gotten started in reading graphic novels, myself. Not so sure this is one is for me, though. It looks rather... solemn.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

When I lived in Madison, WI many moons ago, she actually had a comic strip that ran in the papers there, and it was so good. I'm so glad she's doing books now! I hope I can find her books out here in the boondocks... (although I have to say I almost fell over dead yesterday when I actually saw a magazine for black women in the grocery store. So you never know!)

Julie P. said...

So funny that I really enjoy graphic novels when I read them. But I just don't usually pick them up. It seems like I read more MG ones than adult ones.

Serena said...

I haven't read too many graphic novels, but I think I should start. There seem to be so many good ones out there.

Tyrie said...

If you haven't already, you should check out Strangers in Paradise. I think you would really dig it.

Zibilee said...

I have this book on my shelf and am looking forward to reading it. I tried to get my husband to read it, but he thought it was too dark. I told him that it was meant to be that way, but he didn't go back to it. It does sound like it's a great and powerful read. I think it will probably be an excellent read for me. Thanks for sharing this awesome review!!

Trisha said...

First, I am so glad you have found a love of graphic novels! Second, I have got to read this. I bought it a month ago and life and other books keep getting in the way!

My word verification: slixed. You don't want to know the definition I came up with. *saucy eyebrow wiggle*

farmlanebooks said...

Fun Home was my first graphic novel. It was so different from anything I'd read before and I loved the humor. It was the prefect start to graphic novels for me - I'm pleased that you enjoyed it.

Iliana said...

Yay, I'm glad to hear you'll be looking for more graphic novels. I really enjoy them but haven't really read but one this year I think. I remember this one and how surprised I was by the dysfunction going on in that family. I don't think I'd read many reviews of it before reading it so I didn't realize it was going to be so serious.

Darlene said...

I'm just not a graphic novel person. I've tried a few and they just don't do it for me. I'm glad you enjoy them and are going to delve into more though!

caite said...

as I just wrote on another blog, I have never read a graphic novel. Perhaps I am the last person in BlogLand not to have now.

while I have a bit of any issue with dysfunctional family stories (come on, whose family is not dysfunctional to some degree!) I must admit it sounds interesting.

Kathleen said...

I started this one a few months ago and got side tracked with other things. I will definitely come back to it and read it. It sounds pretty powerful.

Frances said...

I am in the middle of selecting graphic novels for middle schoolers right now and it is very challenging because they request titles like this but I am not always sure what is appropriate. So I am reading a lot. Love to have recommendations if you have some.

Great job on those challenges by the way!

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I am making my fist forays into graphic novels this year as well, so I will make a note of this one. I have mostly read ones targeted for young adults but i can't wait to expand to some others.

Beth F said...

I have gotten very hooked on the graphic medium and find that the memoirs are my favorite. I've been wanting to read this one.

Jenners said...

This sounds like one that would be a good fit for me.