I started reading this book last January but I stopped for a while. Then, I held it again this afternoon and finished after an hour or so.
FUN HOME was written by an American cartoonist, Alison Bechdel. By featuring women, a lot of them, in her works and her “extraodinary originality and dedication in their creativie pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction,” she was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the Genius Grant.
This family tragicomic is a graphic memoir that tackles Alison’s relationship with her father, Bruce, the challenges she faced before coming out as a lesbian, her father’s suicide and repressed homosexuality and her journey as an individual.
The autobiography starts with Alison describing her father’s obssesion with arts and beauty while hinting that he actually didn’t die of accident but because of suicide. It was followed by details surrounding his death—reading and highlighting notes about death, possible divorce and her coming out. She also provided the readers a glimpse of Bruce’s life as a young boy, a husband and a father. Then, she described how she had to do chores in their funeral home, which they nicknamed Fun Home, with her brothers.
As Alison wonders about her sexuality through the library, she also notes how books were helpful not only for her intellectual development but also for her understanding her father, as well. She narrates the incidents by which she began suspecting her father as “sissy,” not a “butch.” But shortly after the passing of her father, she had a dream of watching the canary sunset but her father misses it. Apart from these, she also describes her mother, being a former actress, was also obsessive in her own artistic pursuit.
“Our home was like an artists’ colony. We ate together, but otherwise were absorbed in our separate pursuits…and in isolation, our creativity took on an aspect of compulsion.”
Alison thinks what might have happened if her father didn’t die in 1980. Would she be what is she today? She remembers that she was one of his students in literature and it made them quite close. But his being overbearing led Alison to drop the subject. She was not able to contain her interest in literature, so she enrolled in one”U course that focused on her father’s favorite “Ulysses.” But her budding relationship with her partner, Joan, failed her course. One time, Bruce and Alison talked about their sexual preferences. Alison thought, it was her chance to make her father understand her better but it went like the other way around. She was the parent who needed to listen to her lost child. They even tried to go to a gay bar after that but was turned down because she was still not of the right age. She thought, they were close, but not enough. They didn’t talk about their sexuality after that, even until the death of Bruce.
As new as it is for me, the comics played a unique way of tracing her identity as a young girl to adult. The graphic memoir, a non-fiction told in comic strip, came to critical and commercial success in 2006. It was even adapted into a musical later and won a Tony’s in 2015.
So, Fun Home is sweet and sad. As graphic as it is, it sounded and smelled “graphic” as well. I can even imagine the smelling salts they were using inside the embalming room. Nyay!
HOWEVER (pero, subalit, ngunit, datapuwa’t), no matter how ornamental Bechdel’s writing is, the emotions she wanted to impart just didn’t reach me. Yes, I was quite baffled when she made a lot of literary references—Camus, James, Swann, Wilde and Proust—but if one is not familiar with them, s/he would get lost at the beginning and will probably decide to stop from reading.
I felt a lot for Bruce though—how hard it was for him to repress his feeling over the years just to show everyone that he was alright, when in fact, he was not even happy about himself. It only shows how critical and captious our society is to members of the LGBTQ community.
Fun Home is indeed, fun and groundbreaking but this kind of literature doesn’t sit well with me. Call it personal preference, hehe. But it is still worthy of anyone’s time.
I hope to see the musical too.
Bechdel, Alison. 2006. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic . New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.