Fun Home by Allison Bechdel

V. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

In my library, we have a few disputes between the two bastions of Collection Development, Adult and Youth. So when I found this book nestled among the rest of the Adult Fiction instead of in our YA Graphic Novel section (or the so-abhorrent-we-can’t-even-imagine-it, imaginary Adult Graphic Novel Section), I felt slightly baffled and slightly smug. Baffled, that the Powers That Be would allow this book to be so blatantly misshelved; Smug that the department that won’t take our Too-Racy graphic novels, claiming they have not an interest in the graphic novel genre, was lying.

So that’s why I took this one home. It was special. And boy it is. While I don’t personally hold a library degree, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with this book sitting in the young adult collection (the drawings, while downright beautiful, are at times very explicit) And while the Adult Fic label might be a misnomer, this book is more novel than graphic.

This is a memoir (wait, what was it doing in the Fiction section?) of Alison and her strained relationship with her father. Alison grew up with creative and intellectual parents who, for some unknown reason, chose to stay with the family business in rural Pennsylvania instead of finding a more liberal place to raise their family. Her home was formal Victorian, her parents distant, and the family business was a mortuary. The story begins as Alison approached puberty, and ends with her father’s sudden death, a possible suicide. In the time in between, Alison struggles to relate to her father, and struggles with her own internal questions.

While reading, I found myself more attentive to the language than the illustrations. Not the say the pictures weren’t remarkable – I assure you, they were – but Alison’s writing was strangely lyrical for the genre. This probably has something to do with her upbringing. Fun Home is partly painted with literature, books her father loved, books she found on her journey, all of them the kind of classics you never thought people actually read. Not Pride and Prejudice and The Scarlet Letter, we’re talking Proust and James Joyce. The words and the slate blue coloring create a somber reading experience, but one you’ll be enveloped by.

Now excuse me. I’ve got some reading to catch up with.

Buy this for: self-professed literary snobs who poo-poo your taste in “comic books,” your favorite professor, or your older sister who just completed her Six Feet Under DVD collection.

Alison Bechdel online | Salon review | Amazon Link

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