A fresh and brilliantly told memoir from a cult favorite comic artist, marked by gothic twists, a family funeral home, sexual angst, and great books.
This breakout book by Alison Bechdel is a darkly funny family tale, pitch-perfectly illustrated with Bechdel's sweetly gothic drawings. Like Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, it's a story exhilaratingly suited to graphic memoir form.
Meet Alison's father, a historic preservation expert and obsessive restorer of the family's Victorian home, a third-generation funeral home director, a high school English teacher, an icily distant parent, and a closeted homosexual who, as it turns out, is involved with his male students and a family babysitter. Through narrative that is alternately heartbreaking and fiercely funny, we are drawn into a daughter's complex yearning for her father. And yet, apart from assigned stints dusting caskets at the family-owned "fun home," as Alison and her brothers call it, the relationship achieves its most intimate expression through the shared code of books. When Alison comes out as homosexual herself in late adolescense, the denouement is swift, graphic -- and redemptive.
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ALISON BECHDEL has been a careful archivist of her own life and kept a journal since she was ten. Since 1983 she has been chronicling the lives of various characters in the fictionalized “Dykes to Watch Out For” strip, “one of the preeminent oeuvres in the comics genre, period” (Ms.). The strip is syndicated in 50 alternative newspapers, translated into multiple languages, and collected into a book series with a quarter of a million copies in print. Utne magazine has listed DTWOF as “one of the greatest hits of the twentieth century.”From Booklist:
*Starred Review* This is a father and daughter story. Bechdel's mother and two brothers are in it, of course, but Bruce Bechdel had the biggest impact on his eldest child and so is naturally the other main character in her autobiographical graphic novel. Emotionally and physically reserved, to the point of brusqueness, he busied himself restoring--and then some--the Victorian-era house he bought for the family in the Pennsylvania town in which he was born and lived virtually all his 44 years. He enlisted the kids for never-ending interior and exterior modifications of the place in what obviously was his major creative outlet. For a living, he taught twelfth-grade English and ran the small undertaking business that occupied part of his parents' house and that the kids called the fun home. Bechdel doesn't even hint about how ironic she and her brothers meant to be, because she is a narrative artist, not a moralist or comedian, in this book and because she has a greater, real-life irony to consider. After disclosing her lesbianism in a letter home from college, her mother replied that her father was homosexual, too. Alison suddenly understood his legal trouble over buying a beer for a teenage boy, all the teen male "helpers" he had around the house, and his solo outings during family vacations to New York. Bechdel's long-running Dykes to Watch Out For is arguably the best comic strip going, and Fun Home is one of the very best graphic novels ever. Ray Olson
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