Review: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Title: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Author: Alison Bechdel
Publisher: Mariner Books
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Paperback, 232 Pages
Published June 2006

Summary: Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the Fun Home. It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.

I had to read this book during my graphic novel workshop this semester, and I was really intimidated before I started the class, because I wasn't sure if I would like graphic novels, or be able to focus on both the images and the text at the same time, but after I spent this summer reading some graphic novels sent to me from Oni Press (thanks to the incredibly amazing Margot Wood!), I realized that I didn't only think graphic novels were okay...I really liked them! So when I started this class, I was really excited to read some more graphic novels and to test out my taste in the genre a little more...and we started with Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, and let me tell you, it did NOT disappoint!

As the summary explains, Fun Home is the nonfiction account of what Alison Bechdel's life was like as she was growing up, and all of the secrets and issues and things that went on with her family -- particularly focusing on the strained relationship between her and her father, whose sexual history isn't really found out until after his tragic death. The whole story consists of Bechdel exploring more about both herself and her own sexuality, as well as her family secrets and the inner workings of her father, whose relationship with her was not always perfect.

The first thing that I really enjoyed about this book was the fact that even though a lot of the topics were dark and heavy, Bechdel still found ways to make it funny and to keep the reader engaged and laughing. There were also tons of different literary references that my inner English major heart enjoyed seeing! Bechdel's character herself was also really funny and fascinating; it was interesting seeing everything unfold from her point of view, and seeing the different ways she may have judged her family members at first glance but then realized that they were more complex than she ever could have imagined.

Another thing that I really enjoyed about this book was the fact that the drawings were both very detailed but also weren't so complicated that it got overwhelming. It was pretty easy to read this book quickly and get a gist of what was going on through the images, but whenever I was pause a little longer and look a little bit deeper, you see more little Easter eggs that make the images even richer and containing even more subtle references, jokes, and clues. So this book was actually filled with tons more information than I even expected at first glance.

Overall, I really liked reading Fun Home, even if sometimes the topics felt really heavy. Bechdel still found a way to create a captivating, funny story to draw readers in, and the monochrome coloring and drawings also felt fascinating and museum-like to me, the same way their big, old house did. It's safe to say that I'm definitely open to reading more of Alison Bechdel's work in the future, because Fun Home was a quick, fascinating read to start dipping my toes into this graphic novel writing class. If only I had seen the musical -- I heard it was really good!


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