Watching Out for Mom

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Are You My Mother?Are You My Mother?
by Alison Bechdel
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
290 pages, $22.

 

ABOUT TWENTY PAGES into Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? you realize that this isn’t a memoir so much as a suspense story, the question being, “Is Bechdel going to be able to pull this off?” Unlike her earlier comic novel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic—which focused on the artist’s fraught relationship with her closeted, funeral-home-owning father, whose death Bechdel suspects was a suicide—this sequel is about her mother, who’s not only hypercritical and deeply ambivalent about her daughter’s success, but is also very much alive. Throughout the book, Bechdel (and the reader) can’t help but imagine this acerbic, withholding woman reading over her shoulder. The artist wants to tell the truth, but the daughter doesn’t want to piss off mom—or hurt her feelings. How on earth is this going to fly?Bechdel cartoon

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