Monday, March 29, 2010

Review by Shellie: Fun Home by Allison Bechdel

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Book Overview:

This is a coming of age memoir and tribute to the author’s father, told via a graphic novel. Allison Bechdel, the author/artist, pictures and writes about growing up in a small Midwest town bordering on the Appalachian mountains. It is set during the 1970s and 80s where her intellectual parents (father is a high school English teacher and runs a funeral home, mother is an actress and writer) have a subtly cool and conflicted relationship. As she comes into her own sexual awareness she also realizes her father’s inclinations. All the while the author blends her memories with the classic literature which has defined her life, her relationship(s), and memories of her father.

My Thoughts:

This is a wonderful, sad, and yet darkly funny period piece. She metaphorically links many aspects of her life within the book. She also layers it with fun, interesting, and sad icons from the times. A few examples that stick out in my memory for the 1970’s are Nixon’s fall from grace, Life cereal, and Road Runner cartoons. As well as a few from the 80’s - clove cigarettes, home made bongs, and Alan Parson’s Eye in the Sky album. I imagine anyone growing up during these times, like myself, will love these referenced bits in the background of her drawings. I laughed and reminisced.

Her drawings are in black and white and are realistic and balanced. Her language is complex and thoughtful, although, at times, obscure and esoteric. It does however make you think. A wonderful example of the former is where she aptly describes her observations of a male gay community as a “display of cosmetic masculinity” (pp 190) with a few subtle yet definable pictures.

The “big picture” thought about this memoir and what makes is so good is that it condenses a major realization for children coming of age – regardless of sexual orientation. It is essentially that as children, our parents are gods in our little worlds. As young adults we can see them as demons. But to become adults there is a need to see our parents as they truly are – human, with all their faults and quirky foibles. It is with this reconciliation that we pass over the border from child to adult and can become emotionally whole. As Allison examines her conflicted feelings toward her father with realism, she eventually moves toward this awareness. It is here that I cried, which I rarely do.

This is my first graphic novel. Since I am a very visually oriented person this type of literature suits me well. As well, because of the parallels with myself and the author’s life, I was immersed. I loved this book and rated it 4.5 stars. I am looking forward to reading some of her more fantastical graphic novels.

I would recommend this book for adults, due to some light sexual referencing and pictures. And specifically to those whom came of age in the 1970’s.

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This book is linked to four challenges –  2010 GLBT Mini-challenge,  Graphic Novels Challenge, New Author Challenge, and Woman Unbound.

Minichallengebutton butonsmall 4023982391_7a3d1b0979_o unboundrosie

The above badges link to Layers of Thought’s original post for the above challenges.

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Purchasing links for AmazonUS/UK/Canada, for The Book Depository Euro/AUD.

Amazon Book Stats US Paperback:

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (June 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618871713
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618871711
  • Genre: Memoir

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    A request for some memory help:

    Bechdel pictures herself as a child wearing a pair of shoes that have waves on the bottom, on the soles. I have been asking parents, friends, and searching the web and will be darned if I cannot figure out what they where called. I had a pair and loved them. Does anyone remember these shoes from the 70’s and what they where called?

    Happy Monday everyone!

  • 13 comments:

    Charlie said...

    A good, detailed review, Shellie. And I'm glad this GN clicked with you.

    I read so many good things about GNs, like Neil Gaiman's, but I'm not that adventurous. Chalk it up to age and being set in my ways.

    (BTW, Picasa is having fits today so a lot of our graphics are missing.)

    Aarti said...

    This was my first graphic novel, too! I really enjoyed it, though yes, it was so dark. You might also really like Blankets, if you can find that one.

    Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

    Charlie -
    Thanks!

    I don't believe the old age set in your ways stuff either.... get a bloody magnifying glass if you have to... :)

    Thanks about the Picassa info.. I was afraid I was being hacked...lol

    That old paranoia thing...which I know you can relate too.

    Aarti -
    I love it!

    I have Blankets on my list on goodreads.. I think. But if not it will be added to my list at your recommendation. Thanks.

    I chose to review this one since it was the only one I could available at the local library or I think I would have gone for something a bit more speculative. I am glad it worked out this way though. :)

    I wonder why Blankets is hard to find? hmmm

    No insight on the shoes yet eh?

    I've been wracking my freekin brains out...

    Amanda said...

    I'm afraid I don't have a clue about the shoes, sorry! But I did read this book last year and I'm sad to say I didn't like it very much. It really disappointed me. Maybe I was just really uncomfortable about the way Bechdel ties her father's homosexuality with his pedophilia. I don't like the two tied together. :/ Ah well. I'm glad you enjoyed it! And I second Aarti's recommendation of Blankets, which is amazing.

    Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

    Amanda -
    Your maybe too young to remember the shoes. Thanks though :)

    Lets hope someone recognizes them...

    Yes I noticed you only gave it a 3 stars and do understand the pedophilia thing.. I had that problem with The Time Travelers Wife. I am not sure why it did not bother me with this book... perhaps I should think about that one?

    I do have Blankets on my tbr list on goodreads. There are 3 five stars from my friends there including one from you.

    Charlie said...

    Were those shoes called Wedgies?

    Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

    Charlie -
    Nice guess but I think they are called something else. Wedgies are still around I believe?

    I am a bit out of touch with some of the new names for older fashions...

    I think I will google that one too.

    Funny thing is that I found this site with all these icons for fashion on them in the US separated by decade.. what a cool site. I didn't find the shoes there either...

    Here the web site
    http://www.skooldays.com/

    I think you might like this one...lol

    Anna said...

    I've never read a graphic novel, and I'm picky about memoirs, but I like dark stories. I'll keep this one in mind.

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

    Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

    Anna -
    I love a good memoir as well. I am not sure if you would like or enjoy this one or would recommend it as a first graphic novel.

    With this particular post I have gotten 3 recommendations from three people whose opinion I trust when it comes to books...
    Aarti, Logan, and Amanda

    They all three recommend Blankets..... it also has 3 five star ratings in my friend's list on goodreads.

    I'm thinking that would be a great place to start. :)

    DCMetroreader said...

    I haven' read a GN (yet -- I have the Impostor's Daughter to read someday), but I love a good memoir. I also would enjoy the period references (it has been years since I saw an Alan Parson Project reference -- I first heard the album on road trip to the beach with the my big sister).

    Thanks for the great review! I am going to look for this book.

    Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

    Kim -
    Thanks. I will look for your thoughts on it. I hope you enjoy it like I did.

    I love Alan Parsons as a tween.. particularly the Tales of Mystery and Imagination about Edgar Allan Poe. I think it was a baby sitter that shared her interest in it with me.

    Any clues about the shoes...lol?

    Have a great weekend!

    oneblacksheep said...

    Fantastic review. I've been planning on reading Fun Home for a while now, since I first started reading Dykes to Watch Out For - this makes me more determined to get hold of a copy :)

    Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

    Black Sheep -
    Thanks.

    I am really looking forward to her more fantasy oriented books. Not sure if Dykes is that genre?

    It looks like you have a number of graphic novel reviews on your site... I will be by to check them out :)

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