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Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic Paperback – June 5, 2007
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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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
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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.
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.
I'm a straight woman, but a bit of a tomboy. Move always worn guy clothes and my parents always tell the story of when I sprinted out on Christmas morning at age 4 to attack my older brother's gifts under the tree, ignoring all the frilly girl toys and dolls set out for me. He had matchbox cars, etc set out. I played with those from a young age. I wore my dad's shirts and shoes. I don't recall ever playing with make up. I'd play flag football with neighborhood kids. I'd climb trees, etc. I was once flung off a neighbor's horse into a sticker bush while riding without tackle. I was a mess. Before swim team practice I would get there early and get all the frogs and snakes out of the pool. (I grew up in GA.). Thankfully, mom moved me to CA for high school and I had a place where minds were more open to different ideas. I identify with Alison's wanting to dress in guy clothes and have short hair. That's me all the way. Even straight people can see themselves in this book.