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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)
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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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"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!
Not only is it intelligent, layered, original, and astonishing, it's one of the best books I've read in a long time that uses other literary works to emphasize and humanize its story. Ms. Bechdel is sly, funny, and more self-aware than most writers I can think of, and Fun Home is a triumph. I only wish I had read it when it came out so I could have been recommending it to everyone all of these years.
I can't remember the last memoir I enjoyed this much (maybe "Liar's Club" by Mary Carr) that contained so much wisdom and humor. Yes, it has much frank discussion of homosexuality but it is hardly gratuitous when it is fundamental to the natures of the two main characters--the narrator and her father, their destinies beautifully interwoven with the themes of books they read in the course of this graphic "tragicomic."
Those who look down on graphic novels as less than "literature" would do well to withhold judgment until they have read "Fun Home." It is a great--an important--book--in any genre.