What it is: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel is a graphic memoir that examines Bechdel’s childhood, especially her relationship with her father and her discovery and exploration of her sexuality. Almost everything in the graphic memoir, from people in Bechdel’s life to to the literature she reads, seems to parallel elements of her personality, making the book feel cyclical, concrete, and just-so.What I liked about it: Basically everything. I loved this book. The writing is thought-provoking and represents an incredible balance between poignant and analytical, profound and comical, personal and universal. The art is great and adds so much to the story–its graphic-ness is absolutely essential to the memoir because it adds constant emotional imagery to her words. She could leave out explanations of the little details because they’re in the drawings, making it simultaneously simple and intricately detailed.
What I didn’t like about it: Like I mentioned before, much of Bechdel’s plot points parallel each other. One of those parallels is an in-depth comparison of Homer’s The Odyssey and James Joyce’s Ulysses to the journey of her relationship with her father. While I like the juxtaposition elsewhere in Bechdel’s book, I’m rusty at best on The Odyssey (and I’ll admit I didn’t really understand it when I read it four years ago) and know absolutely nothing about Ulysses, so that extended explanation was lost on me. I felt frustrated, like I had failed to complete the required prerequisites.
Memorable quote (mild spoiler alert): “But that would only confirm that his death was not my fault. That, in fact, it had nothing to do with me at all. And I’m reluctant to let go of that last, tenuous bond.”
Overall rating: 5/5 stars.
Challenge satisfied: #20, read a graphic novel, a graphic memoir, or a collection of comics of any kind.
Additional notes: This was the first graphic anything (novel, memoir, comic) that I’ve read, not counting the Sunday comics. I had a lot of prejudice against graphic novels before reading this one, but now I want to dive into the genre. If you’re hesitant about trying graphic novels, this is an excellent place to start.
Psst. Does the name Bechdel sound familiar to you? She’s also the author of the comic strip that satirically created the Bechdel test. For more on that, click here.
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