Bibliography: Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Houghton Mifflin Company. 2007. ISBN-13: 9780618871711
About the Author:
American cartoonist and writer Alison Bechdel is a recipient of the 2014 MacArthur Genius Award, writer of the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, and creator of the widely used Bechdel Test.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is a graphic memoir that follows the life of Alice Bechdel before and after her father’s death. The term “tragicomic” is a literary genre that combines tragedy and comedy forms. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing noted that tragicomedy invokes a blend of emotions in which “seriousness stimulates laughter, and pain pleasure.”
In this very intimate portrait of her life, she uses prose and illustrations to convey her coming out story, the grief of her father’s death and possible suicide, and the unfolding of her father’s hidden bisexuality.
She begins this memoir through the eyes of her childhood, comparing her adult father to Greek mythical characters Daedalus and Icarus.
Her father was an English teacher and Director of the town funeral home. She lived with her father, mother, and siblings in a big majestic Victorian home, which served as a metaphor for her father and their life. He was always curating art, working on improvements, and obsessed with appearance and how they were portrayed to others. The house was built in 1867, a time of prosperity for their small lumber town. The town did not flourish and the home became irrelevant, but her father kept up with the updates of the home and fixed every part to keep it in its original form. Bechdel compares the home to Jimmy Stewart’s home in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” This home plays an integral role in her story and with the beautiful Gothic illustrations the reader gets to see it through her eyes.
Other parts of the memoir examine Alison’s sexual development through transcripts from her diary as an adolescent and memories of her first experiences with her girlfriend Joan. Alison also describes her and her father’s obsessive-compulsive impulses and creative artistic talents. She juxtaposes her coming out story to her father’s closeted sexuality, often wrapping her identity around his memory.
The Bechdel Test:
Alison Bechdel’s work helped curate the Bechdel Test, which has become the standard feminist tool in critiquing media. As a result countries like Sweden have instituted this requirement in their rating system of films.
The three rules state: 1. The movie must have at least two women in it 2. Two women must talk to each other 3. Two women must talk about something besides a man.
“My realization at nineteen that I was a lesbian came about in a manner consistent with my bookish upbringing. A revelation not of the flesh, but of the mind (74).”
“Causality implies connection, contact of some kind. And however convincing they might be, you can’t lay hands on a fictional character” (84).
“Considering the fate of Icarus after he flouted his father’s advice and flew so close to the sun his wings melted, perhaps some dark humor is intended” (4).
“For if my father was Icarus, he was also Daedalus–that skillful artificer, that mad scientist who built the wings for his son and designed the famous labyrinth” (7).
“Fun Home must be the most ingeniously compact, hyper-verbose example of autobiography to have been produced . . . a pioneering work.” – Sean Wilsey, New York Times Book Review
“One of the best memoirs of the decade . . . at once hypercontrolled and utterly intimate.” – New York Magazine, Ten Best Books of the Year
Review by Amanda G.