“What would happen if we spoke the truth?”
If you love words and visual art, you will adore this book.
Published in 2006, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is a graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel that chronicles the author/artist’s coming of age in rural Pennsylvania. The nonlinear, recursive narrative hones in on her complicated relationship with her father, Bruce, a funeral home director, high school English teacher, closeted homosexual, and domestic tyrant who is obsessed with aesthetics. In each highly-detailed frame, Bechdel illustrates the way that her father fanatically restored their Victorian house, until it felt more like a museum than a home. Untouchable. Cold. Crafted.
The novel also documents the formation of Bechdel’s sexual identity—a surprisingly academic journey for her, as she discovers more about her orientation through reading.
“Feminism is the theory. Lesbianism is the practice.”
Typically, we think of graphic novels as a visual narrative form. Fun Home is unique in that it is just as masterful in its language as it is in its artwork. You will need to have a dictionary within reach. (Erm, “perseverated”?) While a lot of writers who use big, obscure words do so to make themselves feel superior (if we’re being honest), Bechdel’s language makes complete sense for her story—one in which intellectuality and aesthetics play a key role. Not to mention, there are a TON of allusions—more than many readers would be able to keep up with. But in a way, the novel is like this nucleus, pointing to all of these different texts that you should delve into next.
In addition to being an artistic and lingual tour de force, Fun Home is a thorough, frank exploration of what it means to grow up. Realizing that your parents are individuals with their own complex interiority—faults, fears, and desires. Embracing the ways in which you just cannot conform to what is expected of you. Accepting that there are just some things that you will never know for sure. Underneath all of the experiential peculiarities that make Alison Bechdel…Alison Bechdel and all of the stylistic idiosyncrasies that make Fun Home…Fun Home, I really do believe that this is a story that every reader will be able to relate to in a very meaningful way.
(And if you are a fan of the theatre, Fun Home is now a Tony Award-winning musical.)
Read and enjoy!