FUN HOME by Alison Bechdel

Today I read Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, a memoir graphic novel. As Alison described it, it’s the story of “how my closeted gay dad killed himself a few months after I came out to my parents as a lesbian.” It was… profound, honestly.

I don’t think I can review it briefly – the literary references, the drawing style, the story itself… thankfully, someone else already created a video review covering all these things:

The book had me sniffling a bit, but mainly overwhelmed me with the weight of the topic. My mind raced in a million directions. My mind generally does this when something hits too close to home. It almost shuts down by scattering out, refusing to focus on one thing, avoiding discomfort and personal reflection. These things invariably come later, but my flight responses are subconscious and have been internally developed over years.

Since my brain was pinging through the clouds, I knew I couldn’t do anything else. Read a new book? No way could I focus for that. Instead I went to the internet to find out how other people had responded to the book. I needed another voice – someone who had stepped back enough to let the material digest. I found the above video.

And I also found the Broadway play. Which I did not know existed until that moment. Intrigued, I got cozy and watched the whole production. The play drew a completely different emotional response from me. I was raised on musicals, so it’s no surprise that my brain at last surrendered to the story through song.

Unlike the book, the sets are minimal, the solemn nature of so many scenes in the book transformed with expression and song. Though I liked the source material better, emotionally I connected with the musical. Oh my god, that end song? Why am I standing here? I sobbed my eyes out.

But the play wasn’t just sad – it also felt much more vivacious and joyous – something not found in the monotone ink and watercolors of the novel. The children played, the family drew together and apart beautifully, and our leading female fell in love (I’m Changing My Major!) in technicolor.

Both pieces of work are groundbreaking, original, and necessary. I highly recommend both.

RATING: FIVE STARS

Title: Fun Home
Author: Alison Bechdel
Originally published: June 8, 2006
Awards: Stonewall Book Awards – Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award, MORE
Genres: Comics, Memoir, Graphic novel

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