One of my reading goals this year was to take a step outside my comfort zone, and figure out why everyone is talking about graphic novels, graphic memoirs, and comics. With Austyn a constant encouragement in my ear, I’ve read at least a dozen graphic stories from a handful of different writers this year.
When I heard that Fun Home was now becoming a Broadway musical, I knew I had to grab a copy.
I’m so glad I did!
There is something completely unique and wonderful about Alison Bechdel’s autobiographical graphic memoir. I’m a regular reader of memoirs, but the graphic format added so much depth and dimension to fully communicate the layered and complex story of Bechdel’s childhood and early adulthood.
I was not prepared for how much this story would make me cry.
I should have known, to be perfectly honest. The subtitle on the freaking book is “A Tragicomic” y’all. Expect the tears.
Bechdel’s memoir details her relationship with her father, a third-generation funeral home director and English teacher, obsessed with historical preservation of what Alison and her brother refer to as their “fun home.”
Ultimately, it is revealed shortly after Alison came out her her parents as a lesbian that her icily indifferent parent was a closeted gay man who had multiple affairs with male students and a family babysitter (inappropriate in genuinely all contexts).
After discovering this information, her mother finally decides to ask for a divorce from her long marriage, shortly after which Bechdel’s father is hit by a truck and killed on impact. Bechdel and her family believed strongly that the accident was a suicide, adding a layer of tragedy to a complex family memoir.
Despite the heavy content, Bechdel manages to make this a laugh out loud funny memoir.
In particular, I adored Bechdel’s writing style – it’s oddly intimate and distant and quasi academic at the same time. Her English training, and her father’s, is clearly evident in how she describes her experiences.
I would highly recommend this to anyone – particularly anyone who hasn’t quite figured out the graphic memoir genre.
It’s a unique format that not every reader will experience on a regular basis. The combination of dialogue and art elevates the story beyond anything that a straight memoir could have achieved.