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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 was first published back in 2006. It took me a decade to get around to reading it because, on a personal level, I had come to resent its existence. The reason for that was that I absolutely loved Bechdel's decades-long comic strip, the incomparable Dykes To Watch Out For, and so when she stopped doing the strip (technically "on hiatus") to work on graphic novels, I blamed Fun Home. Irrationally, true, but I feel I needed to explain why I put off reading it for so long, in spite of all the praise it was getting. Well, I finally did read it and it's amazing.
To be accurate, Fun Home falls into the category of graphic memoir rather than graphic novel as it's an account of Bechdel's early life, her somewhat dysfunctional family, and above all, the highly complex relationship she had with her father. It's told in a non-linear fashion with Bechdel providing an on-going narration as she takes us through different scenes of her life, sometimes moving forward only to jump back again later to revisit a scene shown earlier but from a different angle or with a new understanding. It's like listening to someone as they paint a highly complex picture, working first on one part of the canvas, then another, seemingly not in any order. But the picture grows as we watch and listen, and you come to realize that it had to be done this way to truly understand the experience and her own growing understanding of her early life.
There are number of poignant moments in Fun Home which Bechdel eloquently captures with her art and her words. One in particular stays with me. When she was around four or five years old, her father took her on a business trip to Philadelphia where they stopped to eat at a luncheonette. While they were there, a female truck driver made a delivery. "I didn't know there were women who wore men's clothes and had men's haircuts. But like a traveler in a foreign country who runs into someone from home - someone they've never spoken to, but know by sight - I recognized her with a surge of joy. Dad recognized her too. 'Is _that_ what you want to look like?' he asked. What else could I say? 'No.' But the vision of the truck-driving BD sustained me through the years..."
Highly, highly recommended for anyone who enjoys graphic novels (or comic strips) with engaging characters, complex story-lines and the ability to engage with the reader on a deeply intimate level. And for anyone who wants to see a detailed portrait of a daughter's relationship with dysfunctional parents and how she eventually comes to terms with them, but most especially with her deeply flawed father.
Overall its' a sad story of a young girl growing up lesbian with a father who was gay and closeted. The father eventually commits suicide as his world becomes more hostile. I suppose most gay men were in that state in those decades. The basic ethos of the novel was the contrast between her experience as a homosexual and her father's. It made me wonder if lesbian daughters of gay men have a special bond.
"Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic" is part of my suggested reading for a MOOC course, "The Modern an the Post Modern."