Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the Fun Home. It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.
In this groundbreaking, best-selling graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel charts her fraught relationship with her late father. In her hands, personal history becomes a work of amazing subtlety and power, written with controlled force and enlivened with humor, rich literary allusion, and heartbreaking detail.
First published: 2006
This is another one of those books I would probably never have encountered if it wasn’t for one of my classes. I don’t really read graphic novels. Not because I don’t like them, but because I wouldn’t really know which ones are good and where to start and all that. The only graphic novel I have read is Maus, and now Fun Home. I was really impressed by this novel and I am of the humble opinion that it is an amazing work of art.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is an autobiographical novel, and one of the things I loved most about it is how brutally honest it is. Alison talks very openly about her sexuality, her puberty and all of the things that come with it – her first period, the first time she realised she liked girls, the first time she had sex with a girl in college. It was very refreshing to read about her life in such a way. She doesn’t mess around, she just unapologetically tells it like it is.
Interestingly enough, she does use a lot of beautiful metaphors and comparisons in doing so. Alison is very intelligent, and it shows in the novel. I find it fascinating and extremely admirable how she is able to provide such insightful reflections into her own life. She does so in an unchronological way, seemingly writing (or drawing) the story as she thinks about it, putting it together according to themes instead of periods in her life.
What made me love the novel even more is the literary themes that run all throughout it. The amount of intertextuality is insane – so many books are mentioned, and Alison draws clever parallels between her life and that of some of the greatest fictional characters in literature. She also sees her life itself as a story, which produces sentences like this:
It was only one of many heavy-handed plot devices to befall my family during those strange, hot months.
The graphic aspect of the novel added so much to the atmosphere and the general feeling of the story. The pictures and the words work together in a very special way to create one amazing piece of art, and I find it fascinating how that works. To anyone saying that graphic novels can’t be literature, I’d like to say “go read Fun Home“. It is an honest and very powerful story about finding yourself and about what it means to be family, and I’ve never read anything like it.