Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Laugh Cry, Laugh Cry

Although I don't think every major publisher is convinced of this, not every story is suitable to the graphic novel format. Alison Bechdel's autobiography Fun Home is not just suitable for a graphic memoir, it practically demands it.Most people know Bechdel from her enormously popular, long running comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For, which spawned a cottage industry of its own: books, tee shirts, coffee cups and bumpers stickers. Fun Home is not so much a departure from Dykes to Watch Out For as much as an explanation of it. While there was a certain levity to Bechdel's strip, the characters often grappled with deeper issue that only showed a bit a bit on the surface. It is clear from Fun Home that Bechdel does as well.

The title Fun Home comes from what Bechdel and her brother called the funeral home where her dad worked  and is also, of course, a play on absence. If there is anything that becomes clear early on in the book, it is that Bechdel is experiencing her own home as anything but fun.

Her father, a closeted gay man, made their large house, meticulously restored in its gothic revival style, into something of a museum. It seems clear that children he had are mostly about staging, although he seems vaguely interested in connected with his daughter, if completely unaware about how to do so. Fun Home details the relationship between Bechdel and her father over time, starting with her childhood and ending with his death, a death which was a officially ruled an accident although Bechdel considers that conclusion not a sure one.

The book is morbid, as one might expect, but Bechdel's straightforward honesty, stunning eye for detail and use of specificity, coupled with quotes from her journals,  make it if not infinitely relatable, very understandable. This will be particularly true for anyone who has struggled to connect with a parent figure who is larger than life.