FOR THREE DECADES, Alison Bechdel has been challenging and transforming æsthetic boundaries. First as a lesbian, whose comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For was widely syndicated for 25 years, and then as an award-winning graphic novelist with Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Time magazine named it the best book of 2006 and it won a Lambda Literary Award.
This innovative graphic memoir literally and figuratively drew us into Bechdel’s dysfunctional family, particularly her relationship with her father, a stern, obsessive man who was a high school English teacher and ran a funeral home. It wasn’t until she was in college, when she came out as a lesbian, that she discovered her father had been a closeted gay man. They had only one conversation about their shared gay identity. A few weeks later he committed suicide.
Bechdel’s memoir became an international literary sensation—a bestseller that some people wanted to ban from public libraries. This work was game changing for the genre, as Bechdel disrupted the straight male pantheon of comic literature with her unabashedly queer sensibility. Her book was virtuosic and ingenious in its visual construction and literary execution, demonstrating that graphic novels were not solely the domains of youth. Now Bechdel returns with a new graphic work, Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama, which fills in the back story of her tumultuous childhood on up to the writing of her earlier memoir.