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Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Alison Bechdel

An unusual memoir done in the form of a graphic novel by a cult favorite comic artist offers a darkly funny family portrait that details her relationship with her father, a historic preservation expert dedicated to restoring the family's Victorian home, … see full wiki

Author: Alison Bechdel
Genre: Humor, Biography & Autobiography, Comics & Graphic Novels
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Date Published: June 08, 2006
1 review about Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Alison Bechdel Successfully Combines Comedy and Tragedy

  • Mar 22, 2008
Pros: Tragic comedy, literary references, emotional, unique journal/graphic novel format... everything

Cons: Nothing.

The Bottom Line: Alison Bechdel has successfully combined tragedy and comedy in this masterpiece graphic novel journal.

Can't we all say our homes have been crazy, our families tragically comical at some point? I know for sure mine was when I was an adolescent, and in a completely different way, my new home and new family can be described this way. So when I heard the title of Alison Bechdel's graphic novel Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic I couldn't help but be intrigued. The title seemed sarcastic and I liked the sound of it, so I picked it off my library's graphic novel shelf and read it over the course of the next few days.

Fun Home is told from author Alison Bechdel's viewpoint, and is a true recollection of various events throughout her life. The book begins with Alison describing what it was like to play the "rare" game of airplane with her father. The awkwardness in their contact is obvious, and their relationship can almost be summed up in this small foretelling story. We follow the author's retelling of her life, specifically what it was like living with the father she had. Her father was an odd man whose relationship with his wife wasn't a great one. He took a lot of his anger and frustrations out with no notice on his family, but at times he could be kind... but never normal. He was the caretaker for the family funeral home (the family dubbed it "Funhome") and also a high school English teacher. A closet homosexual, he "experimented" and got into trouble with teenage boys, causing trauma and, at times, disorder for Alison and the rest of her family. However, the author relates well to her father at times for understandable reasons, though they often clash: when the author wanted to run around in boyish clothes, her father wanted her to pin her hair back and look nice. Through literary references and shared reading material, Alison Bechdel connects with her father, eventually coming out as a lesbian herself.

Bechdel tells this story in an interesting format: it's a graphic novel, so of course it's told in pictures and words. It comes across almost like a journal, however; Alison's words and thoughts are written for us and underneath is a picture of the action or an example of what she is talking about. The illustrations clearly depict what is going on, and the emotion is always present. Bechdel tells and illustrates her story with a dry kind of humor. While the events aren't always funny (and are sometimes incredibly serious) the pictures are kind of funny sometimes, and the characters' expressions are always very telling.

Alison Bechdel tells her Tragicomic story so well probably because she kept journals through most of her young life. The authors describes the moment she began keeping a journal, somewhat carelessly, and often loathingly. Through her storytelling in Funhome: a Family Tragicomic as well as her well-kept childhood (and teenage-hood) journals Bechdel lets us into her life as she remembers it so we can see what makes her who she is. I love her sense of humor and her honesty. She's unafraid to tell her story the way it is, allowing the reader to laugh and even cry when the feeling is there. I loved the way she tells her story in a scattered, not always linear way. The glimpses of events in her life in the past as well as at the present (as of her writing the book) were very emotional and detailed. She parallels and contrasts herself to her father in a way that sent tears of emotion and laughter down my face more than once. It was painful but worthwhile at the same time. I loved seeing the books (often the titles of certain books referenced through the family members were pictured on book covers in the frames) and being able to say, "Hey, I've read that" and "Yeah, I can relate to that" from them.

Alison Bechdel's Funhome: a Family Tragicomic is entertaining and emotional and I'm glad I finally was able to find it on my library's shelf. It always seems to be checked out, and now I can see why. I've read that Alison Bechdel is the author of the long-running strip Dykes to Watch Out For, something I'm now interested in finding. Bechdel is an artist in her own right. Her book illustrates with pictures, words and emotions what her strange childhood and development into an adult was like. She is a strong woman not afraid of who she is or where/what she came from. This graphic novel is a masterpiece that is definitely worth checking out from library if not buying.

This review is an entry into pestyside's National Women's History Month Write-Off. The graphic novel Funhome: a Family Tragicomic is a piece of art, and author/illustrator Alison Bechdel is definitely a female artist.


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