Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home is a graphic memoir by writer and cartoonist Alison Bechdel. A success when released in 2006, winning a Stonewall Book Award and Lambda Literary Award amongst others, it later became a musical and won multiple Tony Awards in 2015, including Best Musical.

Fun Home by Alison BechdelBechdel takes us on a visual journey of her childhood, one full of secrets, exploration, and absurdity. The Bechdel family lives in a small town in Pennsylvania in an elaborate Victorian home that her father is meticulously renovating. Both of her parents are intellectuals and teach at the local high school. Alison, her parents, and her two brothers also run the family business, a funeral home morbidly nicknamed “fun home”.

The primary focus of Fun Home is on Bechdel’s relationship with her father. He is a difficult man, often tyrannical and overly fastidious. He can be distant with his children and the marriage of Bechdel’s parents slowly deteriorates over time. He has intriguing relationships with other men and his behavior can sometimes be confusing. Despite this, there is a familial affection and Bechdel relives her childhood memories while dealing with the loss of her father.

Fun Home also follows Bechdel through adolescence and early adulthood with the discovery of her sexuality. While exploring her own identity, she comes to the realization that her father is gay and tries to clarify her father’s life and their relationship. The opportunity to share this understanding ends abruptly when shortly after Bechdel declares to her parents that she is a lesbian, her father is struck down by a truck while renovating another home in their small town. Bechdel suspects it is a suicide, perhaps finally worn down by his torturous secret: an inability to express his true self.

Fun Home is not just for graphic novel lovers. Bechdel paints a picture with rich, vivid language interspersed with intellectual musings and verbal complexity. One of the only things that allows her father to drop his reserve is their frequent discussions of literature. References of many influential works by a variety of authors permeates the memoir and plays a vital role in sustaining the father-daughter bond.

Fun Home is an inventive memoir that takes the reader on an intimate journey of love and loss, weaving sadness and humor to create an indelible impression of the experiences of one family.

Katie DeVriese is a reference assistant at May Memorial Library. Contact her at kdevriese@alamancelibraries.org or (336) 229-3588.