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Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison…

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006)

by Alison Bechdel

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Graphic novel/memoir of Bechdel’s … eventful early life. Her father was a deeply closeted homosexual, who took his frustration and self-hatred out on his house—he was obsessed with redecorating their massive Victorian home. They also have a funeral home—started by Bechdel’s great-grandfather—which is where the book’s title originates. Bechdel draws Dykes to Watch Out For, and as personal as that strip is, this is her first effort at memoir. A coming out story set against her dysfunctional family life, this is a top-rated story of how one parent’s demons can affect an entire house. ( )
  vlcraven | Jan 21, 2015 |
I wish I could give this book 8 stars, it was brilliant. I love the way she works her own journal into the narrative as a text, and explores the possibilities offered by different literary references throughout all to flesh out the extraordinarily complicated relationship she has with her dad. There were a lot of resonances here for me personally, and I can't wait to read it again after digesting this first encounter. ( )
  librarycatnip | Jan 12, 2015 |
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is a graphic memoir that chronicles the childhood of Alison Bechdel, growing up in rural Pennsylvania and her complicated relationships with her father. Alison Bechdel is best known as the person whom the Bechdel test was named after. The Bechdel test is a simple method that can be used to determine if a work of fiction (or movie) is gender biased. To pass the Bechdel test there must be at least two women, who talk to each other about something other than men.

Fun Home is a non-linear account of Alison Bechdel’s childhood with a strong focus on her relationship with her father. A complex relationship, Bruce Bechdel was a funeral director and a high school English teacher. He was obsessed with restoring the family’s Victorian home and often viewed his children as free labour. He was often cold and prone to abusive rage, Alison’s relationship with her father was a difficult one. At 44, he stepped in front of a truck and was killed; while never confirmed, Alison believed her father completed suicide.

After his death, Alison discovered her father was a closeted homosexual who had sexual relationships with his students and babysitters. Alongside this, Fun Home follows Alison’s own struggle with her sexual identity,coming out to her parents before actually knowing her sexual preferences. The graphic novel centres on Alison Bechdel’s thoughts about whether her decision to come out triggered her father’s suicide.

This is a fascinating insight into the mind of Alison Bechdel, not only as a memoir but the struggles that she faced while trying to understand her own identity. Drawn in a gothic style, Bechdel uses blue shading to give her art a dramatic feel. She even uses childhood diary entries to help capture the mood and feel. The dramatic artwork and emotionally charged writing complement each other and really help drive the story.

While I enjoyed Blue is the Warmest Color more as a coming of age story and a struggle with sexuality, Fun Home still remains a wonderful graphic memoir than really packs an emotional punch. Graphic novels and memoirs often get pushed aside and disregarded as works of literature but every now and then comes a work of art that proves this idea wrong. It happened with Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi; but Fun Home seemed to be the most common example that comics (I use the term comic as a catch all for graphic novels and memoirs as well) need to be taken more seriously.

I have been reading more comics of late and I have been impressed with the way art and writing can work together to tell a story. I like these graphic novels/memoirs that capture raw emotion, in the writing or art and I am trying to find more like this. While comics by Marvel and DC are a lot of fun, there are so many other works out there that explores this art from an interesting and new way. I really enjoyed Fun Home, it wasn’t a comfortable read but the experience was well worth the effort.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2015/01/02/fun-home-by-alison-bechdel/ ( )
  knowledge_lost | Jan 3, 2015 |
I gave a copy of this book to a friend in high school when it was first published, but I had never read it myself. When I discovered my library's extensive comic books section, I made sure to not just check out stuff like World War Hulk because I'm an adult and should probably be reading real books. I figured this would be a good time to finally read Fun Home.

I think I would have enjoyed this more if I had read Ulysses and Proust and Collette, et al. Bechdel says, "I employ these allusions ... not only as descriptive devices, but because my parents are most real to me in fictional terms. And perhaps my cool aesthetic distance itself does more to convey the Arctic climate of our family than any particular literary comparison." This quote pretty much sums up what I liked and disliked about the novel. Fun Home is a highly intertextual work and while I think the allusions deepen the level of storytelling (I'm also envious of Bechdel's breadth...I really need to read more), some of the references seem a little forced and are only used for two panels and never mentioned again. It would have been more effective to stick with a few references instead of covering what feels to be the entire western canon.

The work is brutally honest, which admittedly is a desirable quality in a memoir but it doesn't always make for a pleasant experience. It's hard to read about this family, which while not exactly abusive, lacks in affection. The moments of intimacy come far and few between, and the ending is heartbreaking. Bechdel attempts to reach out to her father before he commits suicide (her father's death is classified as an accident, but the family suspects otherwise), but the generational differences may be too great to overcome. the last few pages are powerfully rendered.

Bechdel is a talented artist. her style has never been my favorite in the world, but she certainly can draw and she's skillful in her use of the medium. in the memoir, she talks about her art a little (though less than what i would have expected). she tells a story from her childhood about coloring in a coloring book and how after her father criticized her color choice ("it's the CANARY-colored caravan," he points out when he notices that she is coloring it blue), he sits down with her to recolor it. she also tells another story about illustrating a watercolor for a poem her dad helped write, and how afterwards, she would only do monochromatic paintings. ( )
  megantron | Jan 2, 2015 |
The openness and reflective mood of the ending recovered a star for me. Her use of Joyce to explore both her discovery of sexuality and of her father (and his) was great. ( )
  wjmcomposer | Nov 5, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 220 (next | show all)
Bechdel’s style is straightforward. Her detailed drawings strive to present what she remembers accurately and with detail. The book is black-and-white with a blue-grey watercolor wash that provides depth and adds to the feeling of memory.
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For Mom, Christian, and John.

We did have a lot of fun, in spite of everything.
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Like many fathers, mine could occasionally be prevailed on for a spot of "airplane."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0618871713, Paperback)

In this groundbreaking, bestselling graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel charts her fraught relationship with her late father. In her hands, personal history becomes a work of amazing subtlety and power, written with controlled force and enlivened with humor, rich literary allusion, and heartbreaking detail.

Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the "Fun Home." It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:21:53 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

This book takes its place alongside the unnerving, memorable, darkly funny family memoirs of Augusten Burroughs and Mary Karr. It's a father-daughter tale perfectly suited to the graphic memoir form. Meet Alison's father, a historic preservation expert and obsessive restorer of the family's Victorian house, a third-generation funeral home director, a high school English teacher, an icily distant parent, and a closeted homosexual who, as it turns out, is involved with male students and a family babysitter. Through narrative that is alternately heartbreaking and fiercely funny, we are drawn into a daughter's complex yearning for her father. And yet, apart from assigned stints dusting caskets at the family-owned 'fun home, ' as Alison and her brothers call it, the relationship achieves its most intimate expression through the shared code of books. When Alison comes out as homosexual herself in late adolescence, the denouement is swift, graphic, and redemptive.--From publisher description.… (more)

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