Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel
As a young adult, Alison Bechdel learned that her father spent his life suppressing homosexual urges. In this erudite and yet tender graphic novel, Bechdel tries to reconcile old memories with her new understanding of her father, and examines how the epiphany sheds light on her own homosexuality. Chapters are structured around classic works of literature, creating a layered, intertextual lens through which to analyze her childhood experiences like a series of artifacts.
Bechdel’s father was a high school teacher and third-generation funeral home director. A distant man with an unpredictable temper, he boxed himself into an unfulfilling small-town life. He kept his house like a museum and treated his children like accessories while engaging in emotional affairs with his male students. His only joy came from neurotically restoring the family’s gothic Victorian house, and voracious reading. As a scrappy youngster in a silent home, Bechdel clearly loved and feared her father in equal parts. Struggling to measure up to his standards, she slowly grows into her own person, her own pockets lined with complex desires.
Bechdel investigates herself and her family with ethnographic and classical rigor. Fun Home overflows with highbrow poetical prose and deeply emotional drawings. Despite flashes of dark humor, the overall effect is somber. Moving, intellectual, and beautiful work.
The 213 in 2013 series chronicles every book I read in 2013. Each review contains exactly 213 words, because 2013 words is too long and 2013 characters is too dang short.