Book Review – “Are You My Mother” by Alison Bechdel

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Alison Bechdel

It is no exaggeration to say that Allison Bechdel is an unqualified master of sequential art (known colloquially as comics or graphic novels).

Her long-running comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For, is widely considered a landmark achievement in comics, not only for it’s long-running nature (1983-2008), but also for it’s humanizing, empathetic and honest portrayal of the LGBTQ community. Her first full length work, the graphic memoir Fun Home, was instantly hailed as a modern classic, one of the best books of the 2000’s, and was Time Magazine’s 2006 Book of the Year.

In 2011, I wrote,

Calling this a “triumph of the form” would be an understatement. Absolutely stunning, deeply literate, suffused with melancholy and loss but also full of joy and humor. It deserved every honor it received.

In addition to these honors, she is also a MacArthur Fellow, and is the originator of The Bechdel Test.

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Put simply, Alison Bechdel is one of my favorite authors, and her most recent work, Are You My Mother: A Comic Drama, only confirms that.

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Whereas Fun Home dealt primarily with Bechdel’s troubled relationship with her father (a conflicted, closeted gay man who ran the local funeral home), in Are You My Mother, Bechdel tackles the somewhat more thorny topic of her relationship with her mother. Released in May, 2012, Are You My Mother deals primarily with period of time during which Bechdel wrote Fun Home, but take numerous digressions into her past romantic relationships, her childhood, her therapy session, her parent’s courtship and early marriage (seen primarily in letters), and even into her dreams.

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And as in Fun Home, Bechdel’s observations and reflections are also filtered through a number of literary and psychological filters.

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