Comicazi Book Club: Fun Home- Alison Bechdel

funhome

Recently, the Comicazi Book Club read Alison Bechdel’s autobiographical graphic novel, Fun Home. A more indie book to be sure, though also one with a lot of critical acclaim. In the CBC we take turns leading book discussions (coming up with questions, facilitating the discussion), and Fun Home was my book to lead. Thankfully there is no shortage of issues to discuss (unlike some of the other books I’ve had to do….I’m looking at you Silverfish).
This graphic novel largely looks at the complicated relationship the author had with her father. Spoiler……… though it is mentioned fairly early in the book, at age 44 Bechdel’s father stepped in front of a Sunbeam bread truck, and was killed. Though the investigation was inconclusive, Bechdel herself concludes he committed suicide.
A heavy theme in this book is sexuality/gender roles, specifically Bechdel discovering her own – on first seeing a truckstop bull-dyke, and her growing realization that her father was a closeted gay man. Bechdel and her father both try to find the stereotypical gender roles in each other – with neither living up to the others expectation.
funHome_04
Literature also plays a huge role in this book, both Bechdel parents were teachers, and books guide Alison through some very pivotal moments in her life.
If you want to know more about this book, you can read the wiki or the many articles written about it. My intent here is to give a quick summary, share my questions…and maybe encourage you (comic reader or not), to give this book a read. Truthfully, not everyone in our book club loved this book. I’m not even sure I loved it. But I did like it, and my first reading of it (this was my second) was my first foray into a less “cape” related graphic novel. So more importantly, it took me out of my graphic novel comfort zone because if The Red Menace hadn’t recommended it to me, I probably never would have picked it up on my own-it’s a bit sad and I usually avoid sad things. That said, it’s also open, honest, a little bit hopeful.
My book group questions:
  • After reading this, how do you think Bechdel feels about her father? How do you feel about him? How do you feel about her? What about her mother?
  • How do you feel about the choice to tell thus story as a graphic novel rather than prose…what is gained/lost?
  • Do you see any of what we learned about Allison playing itself out in the style of her work? (ex. The coloring scene with her father, and the lack of color in this book, her compulsions)
  • What role does literature play in this book?

Feel free to discuss in the comments section or join the Comicazi Book Club Facebook page.

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6 comments

  1. Robin

    Interesting, indeed. If I were ever to finally be able to get into graphic novels (which I am sure J would love), I would need to start with something like this, much less “cape” related. Perhaps I will give this one a try.

    • theredmenaceeats

      Hi Robin – we’re actually planning a series of reviews of books that all three of us are currently reading and recommend – that might also be of interest if you’d like to give reading comics a shot. Some superheroes are mixed in, of course, but between the three of us we read quite a range of material. (But this book is a good one if you are more of the non-fiction sort.)

  2. tinydoom

    R- I think you might like this. It reads much more like a biography…and you don’t need any background info to jump right in (like is sometimes helpful with bigger Marvel or DC books). If you give it a try let us know what you think!

  3. smalerie

    I realize that I am reiterating a lot of what the others said, but books like this are a good reminder for me that graphic novels come in EVERY genre. I think that is what I like about them so much, because once you get a chance to look into things, you can really pick and choose based on what you like…then of course branch out from there if you want to try something new. When I started really getting into graphic novels it was because I liked the cartoons/anime some of them were based on (Batman: The Animated Series 4-eva! and coughSailorMooncough). Then it all kinda snowballed from there.

    If you do read Fun Home, let us know what you think. There is also a book Bechdel wrote with more of a focus on her relationship with her mother I believe, though I haven’t read it yet. But I guess my point is, you will find something you like because there is just so much out there.

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