Rummanah Aasi
  I never heard of graphic novelist Alison Bechdel before. After finishing her memoir in the form of a graphic novel, I learned that she is best known for her comic "Dykes to Watch Out For", which has won numerous awards and have been translated into several languages. Her memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, was a New York Times Notable Book of 2006 and has received numerous starred reviews from Booklist and other journals. All of which it rightly deserves.

Description: Fun Home is a poignant father and daughter story. Recalling her childhood and adolescence, the author tries to make sense of her relationship with her emotionally distant and closeted father while exploring her own sexuality.

Review: Fun Home is an engrossing and moving memoir that I haven't read in a really long time. While the memoir includes various rites of passage of adolescence and teen angst that are common to all memoirs, it manages to go beyond the genre's limits. Bechdel does not shy away in presenting her father with flaws to her readers. He is emotionally unavailable, closeted, narcissistic man who is obsessed in creating a facade of the perfect family and runs a funeral home which is where the title comes from. As I read the novel, I couldn't believe how the events of her father's live took precedence over the author's own. The confusion of her teen years are overshadowed by her father's court trial. Even his secret affairs and death, which isn't clear if its suicide or an accident, are given more importance than to her own sexual epiphany. It is only after Bechdel learns from her mother of father's hidden homosexuality that she is able to see her him in a new light and make him human.
  What I loved best about Fun Home is the chalk full of literary allusions, from Fitzgerald, Joyce, and Proust, that are presented in the graphic novel-memoir. The allusions, I think, added another layer and dimension to the story. Both of her parents are very well read. Her father was a high school English teacher while her mother studied theater and performed in community plays. It is only through literature that Bechdel is able to describe her parents. She notes: : "I employ these [literary] allusions ... not only as descriptive devices, but because my parents are most real to me in fictional terms" (66). It becomes apparent as we read further that literature is really the only way she could connect with her father and one wonders whether the books he picked for her to read were done consciously. While I enjoyed the allusions, I was a bit lost when it came to Proust since I haven't read any of his books but I could still infer the author's significance to the graphic novel-memoir.
  The format of Fun Home is done pretty well. The panels are spaced out and the colors are pretty much monotone with shades of midnight blue, white, and black, which made it appealing. Unlike many graphic novels I've read, the narrative is written above the panel while the dialogue was contained in the panel. I was at times confused on what I should read first, but it did not stop me from reading.
  Fun Home is a wonderful example of a graphic memoir done right. It is engaging, heart wrenching, at times funny, but mostly importantly insightful. I couldn't help but go, "Wow" when I finished it. I think it goes without saying that I highly recommended Fun Home for those who like intelligent memoirs.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong sexual content, nudity, and language throughout the graphic novel. Recommended for adults only.

If you like this book try: Blankets by Craig Thompson or Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
2 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    You read such fun and interesting books that I'm not familiar with, and I love reading your thoughts on them! I always like when a book makes me go "wow" when I'm done:) Beautifully done review Rummanah!

  2. Thanks, Jenny! I try to change up my reading selections so I don't get burnout from one genre. :)

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