“Are You My Mother?”—Alison Bechdel’s Graphic Memoir of Her Mom

June 3, 2012

If the above video doesn't work view Alison Bechdel talking about her process in creating "Fun Home" on YouTube.

A few years ago my computer guy told me about Alison Bechdel's comic strip: Dykes to Watch Out For. (We have a lot of downtime while we are fiddling with computer backups and such. He just finds a lot of cool stuff.)

Then there was a long period of time where I didn't check back in on Bechdel's work. In April the New Yorker ran a great article by Judith Thurman on Bechdel and her work (unfortunately it's a locked article so you can only get the whole thing if you subscribe—which I suggest you do. You can see some of it at the link.)

The article made me keep  my eyes open for her new graphic memoir Are You My Mother? Last week I picked it up and couldn't put it down for two whole days. (OK, I did put it down to take time to eat and go for my bike rides, and I did have to do a little bit of work, but the point is, I wanted to keep reading and finish, but I wished there was more when I had finished!)

I hope women everywhere read this book because I think Bechdel has done a wonderful job of looking at the specific and making it applicable to the general (something she actually has an argument about with her mother in the book). It doesn't matter if you have a good or bad relationship with your mother, or if you have a daughter. I think fathers might find it interesting as well. Some brothers could probably profit from reading it.

Yes there is some angst and generally I'm not interested in angst. But this author actually took the time to lay out what thoughts were going through her mind in an effort to get to conclusion. Following her mix of dreams, recalled conversations, and readings casts a light on her struggle to create. 

I found the way she melded her memories with her readings of various psychologists and Virginia Woolf fascinating and illuminating. I was left with a lot to ponder. Good books don't diminish and exhaust you, they leave you engaged and contemplative. (It probably helped that I was a huge Virginia Woolf fan who as a teen read everything she'd written. But I haven't reread much Woolf recently and I don't believe people unfamiliar with Woolf's books will feel lost at all.)

Because Bechdel's writing and illustration process as shown in the book is so introspective I wondered how she went about putting all the strands together in her brain. I wanted to know about her process. In fact I wanted to interview her about her process. I also wanted to immediately get her earlier graphic memoir about her father: Fun Home—A Family Tragicomic.

In going on line to find the latter I also found the video that starts this post—which is Bechdel talking about her process. I think you'll find it interesting. It isn't comprehensive, but you get a sense of what she goes through to get to the final marriage of text and drawings.

It's the weekend. Now might be a good time to pick up Are You My Mother? and spend sometime thinking about family relationships and creativity.

  1. Reply

    Finished reading her new book yesterday. I found it interesting and insightful, but ended up not loving as much as Fun Home.

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