Saturday, April 01, 2017

Fun Home: a family tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home is a graphic novel memoir centered around Bechdel’s father and their sometimes close, sometimes strained relationship. Bechdel’s father, Bruce, was a passionate restorer of their Victorian home, a high school English teacher, a part-time funeral home director, and a man who tried to hide his true self from friends and family. His relationship with his wife and children was often strained, and when he commits suicide he and Alison are barely on speaking terms. While the subject is often bleak, Bechdel has a knack for finding both humor and beauty in difficult times.
Before picking up Fun Home, I had not read a graphic novel since middle school. While I enjoy a number of comic strips, I never understood the idea of an entire book told in comic form. Now I cannot imagine this story being told any other way. The imagery and languages work together to immerse the reader so deeply into Bechdel’s life that it’s impossible not to feel the complicated mix of emotions she herself felt for her father: adoration, disgust, trust, betrayal, love, and heartbreak. Woven throughout are comparisons of her family members to characters from literature especially Daedalus, the ancient Greek inventor, and his son Icarus, the boy who flew too close to the sun. In Fun Home, Alison and Bruce take turns as parent and child to one another, at times pushing each other to great heights, and at others falling into the depths. And much like the tales of Greek mythology, Fun Home is a tale that sticks with you long after the story has been told.
Fun Home has won a number of awards including the Eisner Award for Best Reality-Based Work, Lambda Literary Awards for Biography / Autobiography, and the Stonewall Book Awards: Israel Fishman Nonfiction Award. In 2013, it was adapted for the stage winning the 2015 Tony Award for Best Musical, Best Original Score, and others.  

- Portia Kapraun

No comments: