Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Book Review: Fun Home: A Family Tragiocomic

by Richard Grooms, Librarian, Fiction Department, Central Library

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Alison Bechdel

I’ve been enjoying memoirs for about a decade now, reading titles that are popular and about dysfunctional families (these two are really one category) and that got good reviews and seemed to interest me. Like most every other genre, memoirs have been going graphic novel, that odd format that encompasses novels and things that aren’t novels, or even fiction. I was somewhat surprised to find Fun Home, because the author’s Dykes To Watch Out For, the comic strip that made her famous, never connected to me. But Fun Home was a critical and commercial success, and I gave it a shot. I had no problem relating to this. Instead I found it absorbing, funny, and very rewarding.

It’s the story of Bechdel’s family, particularly her relationship to her father. Bechdel was to find out while she was in college that her dad was gay. Soon after this bombshell, he died. These events impelled Bechdel to find out the who and the why of her dad. Many years later, she tackled this in this book. In doing this she analyzes and sympathizes with all her family. Her compassion, light touch, careful detachment, eye for just the right detail and humor all make this account an addictive read. You just want to keep reading, putting off eating, going to the bathroom and going to work. It’s so winning and universal that you can put it on the same shelf as Maus, Ghost World, and Blankets, which are some of the best graphic novels I’ve ever read. Fun Home helped me to see once again that the people we spend the most time around are still capable of being mysterious and unknowable. That can be very hard to deal with, but Bechdel helps us roll with that, laugh at it even. It’s part of being human, after all, this fog and this struggle. Here’s another compliment—Fun Home makes me want to read Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? It pays to give authors a second chance.

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