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Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic Hardcover – June 8, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This autobiography by the author of the long-running strip, Dykes to Watch Out For, deals with her childhood with a closeted gay father, who was an English teacher and proprietor of the local funeral parlor (the former allowed him access to teen boys). Fun Home refers both to the funeral parlor, where he put makeup on the corpses and arranged the flowers, and the family's meticulously restored gothic revival house, filled with gilt and lace, where he liked to imagine himself a 19th-century aristocrat. The art has greater depth and sophistication that Dykes; Bechdel's talent for intimacy and banter gains gravitas when used to describe a family in which a man's secrets make his wife a tired husk and overshadow his daughter's burgeoning womanhood and homosexuality. His court trial over his dealings with a young boy pushes aside the importance of her early teen years. Her coming out is pushed aside by his death, probably a suicide. The recursively told story, which revisits the sites of tragic desperation again and again, hits notes that resemble Jeanette Winterson at her best. Bechdel presents her childhood as a "still life with children" that her father created, and meditates on how prolonged untruth can become its own reality. She's made a story that's quiet, dignified and not easy to put down. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
That Alison Bechdel kept a childhood journal made Fun Home a perhaps more true-to-life project than it would have been if she'd relied on memory alone. A powerful graphic novel-memoir, Fun Home documents Bechdel's childhood experiences and coming-of-age as a woman and lesbian. At its center lies her heartbreaking relationship with her distant father, which produces emotionally complex and poignant reflections and clean, bitonal images. While detractors cited confusing chronology and repetition of events, literary buffs enjoyed the challenging references to Albert Camus, James Joyce, and classical mythology. In the end, Fun Home "is an engrossing memoir that does the graphic novel format proud" (New York Times).
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
"Fun Home" is an entertaining and poignant autobiography of Bechdel's childhood. Her family owns a funeral home in a small town so her father works as an English teacher, her mother an actress. They buy a charming fixer-upper which her father lovingly devotes much of his spare time to restoring to grandeur often enlisting Alison for assistance. Much more, this is Alison's story of growing up as she starts to realize she is a lesbian, her coming out as well as learning that her father was a "closeted" gay man. Her father dies after being hit by a car and Alison wonders whether this was an accident or suicide, unable to fully express himself and his true sexual orientation. It is also about the unspoken bonds between Alison and her dad after she tells her parents she is gay --- she can never quite come to ask him about his sexual orientation and he never directly broaches the subject with her before his death. The illustrations only serve to enhance the development of the Alison and her family and deepen the emotional engagement with their struggles. There are moments of sadness, but more moments of joy and discovery to be found in this exceptional autobiography.
Fun Home is Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir of her life growing up. Fun home is what she and her brothers called the family-owned funeral home her dad ran. This was the first adult graphic novel I’ve read. (And by adult, I mean for grown-ups, NOT porn.) I was really surprised how drawn into it I was. I didn’t realize that characters could be so defined in the graphic format. I really felt for Alison, having to grow up with such distant, detached parents. Her pain and confusion over her father’s death jumps off the page.
The only way that Alison and her father relate to one another is through a mutual love of books and reading. Fun Home is peppered with literary references and comparisons that went completely over my head. Once again I’m pulling the “I was an accounting major so I didn’t read any classics in college card”. If you have, you may enjoy the references and Alison’s book will have even more meaning for you. However, I still liked this book a lot anyway.
There were a few nude drawings in this book, when Alison figures out she’s a lesbian and starts having relationships with women. However, Alison is a talented illustrator and they looked like works of art in my opinion. If the scenes had been described using words, they would have been much more graphic. I am applying Justice Potter Stewart’s “I know it when I see it” test of obscenity and this ain’t it.
As far as the homosexual themes in the book goes, yes this is a memoir written by a lesbian about her relationship with her gay dad. It’s a gay book. But isn’t one of the great things about reading learning about people who are different than you? Reading helps one develop a deep sense of empathy. Maybe you might even learn that people you once thought were evil are not. Maybe that’s a scary thought for some people and they would rather live in their insulated bubbles. I’m glad I’m not one of those people. However, I should thank the students at Duke for alerting me to this book’s existence.
Put Fun Home on your list of challenged books that must be read!
You've probably heard of Alison Bechdel thanks to something used in film criticism called the Bechdel Test. For a film to pass the test it need to feature (1) at least two named female characters who (2) talk to each other about (3) something other than a man. Sadly, a lot of movies don't pass this simple three-question test...
I had fun reading Fun home: A Family Tragicomic and checking to see if Bechdel's graphic memoir passed her eponymous test. It took a lot longer than I thought it would, but that's probably just because the test is meant to check films that feature a lot of dialogue and not graphic novels with a lot of narration.
Fun Home tells the story of Bechdel's relationship with her father with plenty of literary allusions (Icarus, The Great Gatsby, what seems to be the entire works of James Joyce). There's also a wide overarching theme of sexuality due to both Alison and her father being gay. The novel is by no means chronological, but as the story continues you revisit scenes with new knowledge.
Bruce (Alison's father) was a closeted high school English teacher and funeral director (who worked at a FUNeral HOME, get it?) who obsesses over restoring the Bechdel house to its Victorian glory. Helen (Alison's mother) worked on her dissertation whenever she wasn't acting in local theatrical productions (that often lent themselves to having themes pertinent to Alison or her parents' lives).
It's in college that Alison realizes she's a lesbian and shortly after coming out to her parents, she finds out that her parents are getting a divorce because of her own father's homosexualtiy. While Alison and her father could have used their shared queerness to grow closer, fate (or her father's decision to kill himself) prevented that from happening. Just weeks after news of the divorce comes out, Bruce is killed by a Sunbeam delivery truck. The official ruling was after crossing the road, something like a snake in the grass caused him to jump backwards into the path of the truck, but Alison thinks he may have backed into the road on purpose. Many parts of the story focus on Alison wondering if her own coming out may have caused her father to commit suicide.
The story and artwork were all very nice. The literary allusions were a little overbearing. Most of them went over my head; I feel like there should be a Cliffs Notes companion pamphlet sold with this to explain most of the connections. What I really want to do now is watch the Broadway musical adaptation of this story. Ever since I saw Sydney Lucas destroy at last year's Tony Awards with "Ring of Keys" I wanted to see what this musical was about. I'm glad I read the novel first but I can't imagine how different everything would be on stage.
Most recent customer reviews
Dark, sad, excellent!