This is the second graphic novel memoir I have read in the last year and I found it every bit as captivating as the first one by Roz Chast–she did a great job of tackling the topic of the difficult task of caring for aging parents in Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? I love the tragicomic approach which uses humour in cartoon to broach a sensitive and poignant topic with honesty and sensitivity. The same is true for this one by Alison Bechdel.
Fun Home is a coming-of-age story that talks about the cartoonist’s memories of her closeted gay father and the fraught relationship she had with him, and her own coming out story. It is raw, and real and explicit, but deeply personal, giving insight into a troubled family during a time when being openly gay was not acceptable, leading to some tragic and difficult circumstances. Her father died at a young age in a mysterious accident. The author says, “And in a way, you could say that my father’s end was my beginning, or more precisely, that the end of his lie concluded with the beginning of my truth.” The family’s business is a funeral home (thus the title), and themes of death and dying are frequent. The writing is quite intellectual at times, with multiple allusions to literary works. Bechdel later traced her mother’s relationship in Are You My Mother: A Comic Drama.
Fun Home has been adapted to a stage musical, which actually just finished in Toronto and had rave reviews. The Guardian has a great article about the musical and the author’s reaction to it.