Graphic novels can be considered a genre that is quite misunderstood by people. Many people have this skeptic idea that graphic novels are incapable of being anything more than some lengthy comic books, focusing on superheroes, zombies, or some other fantasy. For this reason, many readers often avoid graphic books of all kinds entirely, which leads them to miss out on some amazing masterpieces.
Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is one such novel which is a powerful story of family dysfunction that affected the Bechdel family.
The book narrates the story of a daughter’s efforts to make sense of her father’s life and death, as well as a tale of growing up uncomfortable in your own skin. It highlights the conflict of knowing you are different but being afraid to acknowledge it concerning everything might change. It’s a story of coming to terms with who you are, while remembering a man who really never had that luxury.
Alison Bechdel’s father, Bruce, was a riddle to her while she was growing up. He was an English teacher and director of the family-owned funeral home. He also had expertise in fashion, decor, and gardening. He wasn’t a bad father, but he always seemed to keep her distant from the rest of the family, especially her mother. Some moments that made her father an enigma to the readers are when he forced Alison to wear an outfit she didn’t want, scolded her to obey his weirdly strict cleaning rules, and his strange obsession with making sure all of the flowers around their house always looked perfect.
Afterwards, the plot in this novel takes a crazy roller-coaster ride stunning your calm reading energy. It begins when Alison came out to her strict parents as a lesbian followed by finding out that her father was gay as well. While perhaps not entirely surprising if she added up all of the signs and clues she might have noted subconsciously, the discovery still throws her for a loop. And while they had one half-conversation about this, a few weeks after his revelation, her father died, leaving a legacy of mystery and confusion in his wake.
“Perhaps my eagerness to claim him as ‘gay’ in the way I am ‘gay’, as opposed to bisexual or some other category, is just a way of keeping him to myself—a sort of inverted oedipal complex.”
In terms of the writing technique, Bechdel’s skills as a writer and storyteller are on fine display here, but her drawings are an equally powerful part of the book. As a graphic book novice, I expected the artwork to simply illustrate the action of the story, but she accomplishes much more than that, using her drawings to add emotional resonance to the work as well as some essential comic relief. Bechdel clearly understands exactly which parts of the story pictures portray better than words.
To conclude, this book practically triggers emotion, anger, and confusion, as well as the uncertainty that comes with self-discovery. It grabs you from the first page and never lets go. By portraying an unconventional gothic-tragic family, this book is surely a masterpiece. If you are someone who loves the works of authors like Proust and Camus, then this novel is highly recommended to you.
Tasnia is a proud Slytherin who loves binging on poetry and graphic novels in her free time.