Autostraddle Book Club #4: We’re Reading Fun Home!

Hey, remember Summer Book Club? Did you read a lot of books? Did you win a prize? (If so, it’s on its way to you!) Summer Book Club was very magical and special but now it’s over. This means that we’re going back to picking a book and all reading it together, and also that the book will turn out to be sort of heartbreaking because it’s becoming apparent that that’s something of, I don’t know, a theme in queer literature? Or maybe it’s just me, la la la! Next time if you want we can read a cookbook or something. Cat Cora probably has one.

Anyways, this is all to say that via a very rigorous scientific process, it has been determined that the next stop on this extra special adventure over the reading rainbow will be Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home! Probably you know about Alison Bechdel! She’s also the author of Dykes to Watch Out For, which you (and I!) obviously love, and responsible for the Bechdel Test, which maybe you’ve heard of?

If Dykes to Watch Out For is an important milestone in representations of queer women and their relationships and families, Fun Home is a representation of Bechdel herself. It’s a graphic novel memoir about growing up with a cold, distant father who’s also a closeted gay. Which complicates the fact that Bechdel herself is, you know, also gay. Also, you can look forward to “challenging references to Albert Camus, James Joyce, and classical mythology” according to Bookmarks Magazine! Here it is in the publisher’s words:

This breakout book by Alison Bechdel takes its place alongside the unnerving, memorable, darkly funny family memoirs of Augusten Burroughs and Mary Karr. It’s a father-daughter tale pitch-perfectly illustrated with Bechdel’s sweetly gothic drawings and — like Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis — a story exhilaratingly suited to the graphic memoir form.

Meet Alison’s father, a historic preservation expert and obsessive restorer of the family’s Victorian house, a third-generation funeral home director, a high school English teacher, an icily distant parent, and a closeted homosexual who, as it turns out, is involved with male students and a family babysitter. Through narrative that is alternately heartbreaking and fiercely funny, we are drawn into a daughter’s complex yearning for her father. And yet, apart from assigned stints dusting caskets at the family-owned “fun home,” as Alison and her brothers call it, the relationship achieves its most intimate expression through the shared code of books. When Alison comes out as homosexual herself in late adolescence, the denouement is swift…graphic…and redemptive.

This will be the first graphic novel we’ve read for Book Club, which will be exciting and novel. (See what I did there?) If you haven’t gotten into Bechdel before now, this is a great place to start! Find a copy! We will meet back here to discuss our thoughts and feelings during the first week of November. Synchronize your watches now!

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Rachel is Autostraddle's Senior Editor and the editor who presides over books as well as news and politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel currently lives in Michigan, where she teaches writing at the college level and is pursuing her MFA in fiction. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy."

Rachel has written 714 articles for us.

55 Comments

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    Aw man this is awesome. I love Fun Home. I actually wrote about it during my master’s (which was just after it came out) and I’m gonna be teaching it as part of a second year undergrad class next semester. Suffice to say I have a lot of feelings about this, and that a whole bunch of people are gonna read it because it’s AMAZING. Plus I’m a lit phd, and the lit references in Fun Home make me get a little bit excited ngl, so there’s that.

    EVERYBODY READ IT SO WE CAN TALK ABOUT IT.

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    Awesome choice. I love biographical graphic novels.

    One of my straight friends who is obsessed with graphic novels lent me Fun House before I had come out to her. She is a conservative Christian and I was really nervous about the whole thing, but once she lent me this book I knew it would be okay. T

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    I LOVE Fun Home; we read it in my Gay Love and Literature course.

    Plus Bechdel is working on a 2nd graphic novel memoir, this time based around the relationship with her mother.

    Also random, apparently one of my friends grew up across the street from Alison and her family and was like “Oh is she really that famous?” when I mentioned her upcoming graphic novel to her. My mind = blown. Small world.

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    I love Fun Home! I actually met Alison Bechdel when she came to speak at Dartmouth for its annual Stonewall Lecture. She even came to speak in our LGBT studies class because she’s a good friend of the prof. She talked about her family’s reaction to the book, about the next one she’s writing about her mom, and answered a ton of questions we all had. I had a chance to chat with her after the class and she signed my book. She was so nice and really funny.

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      I met her once too! She came to my school to give a talk to the freshmen, who had been assigned to read Fun Home. I was leading a discussion section on it and she was kind enough to sign my book as I fangirled all over her.

      Her talk was wonderful, as well.

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    alison bechdel is co-teaching a class at uchicago in the spring!!! i don’t even know how that happened but i am going to spend the next six months composing myself to prevent from melting of fangirlness

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    I bought “Dykes to Watch Out For” for someone I was dating but we broke up before her birthday and thusly, I won.

    Soon after I devoured everything by Bechdel including this memoir in roughly a minute and a half. So good!

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    I’ve probably read Fun Home at least ten times, and I consider it one of my favorite novels. It’s so much more than it seems. Due to its medium, it seems shallow and, ultimately, childish. But it’s just so much more. It’s intellectual, fascinating, and absolutely hilarious, all at the same time. Alison Bechdel has so much insight into the human psyche and it shows.
    This book is probably perfect in every way.

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    this is a GREAT book. i’m reading it currently in a tutorial on “the american novel now” and these are some great secondary readings to go along. just, ya know, for critical discussion:

    Introduction: Graphic Narrative
    Chute, Hillary L.
    DeKoven, Marianne, 1948-
    MFS Modern Fiction Studies, Volume 52, Number 4, Winter 2006,
    pp. 767-782 (Article)
    Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press
    DOI: 10.1353/mfs.2007.0002

    An Interview with Alison Bechdel
    Chute, Hillary L.
    Bechdel, Alison, 1960-
    MFS Modern Fiction Studies, Volume 52, Number 4, Winter 2006,
    pp. 1004-1013 (Article)
    Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press
    DOI: 10.1353/mfs.2007.0003

    both of them are on project muse if you have access. great stuff.

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    Oh! I’d put Fun Home on my to-read list not even realizing it was the same Bechdel! I love the use of ink wash with the lines here, I read a little DTWOF a while ago and wasn’t so into how it looked, but I actually wanted to read Fun Home just for the art, I hadn’t seen a synopsis yet.
    I guess my point is improving as an artist is hard but Bechdel has shown commitment to awesomeness and so I’ve been totally won over and am now SUPER EXCITED!

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    Hey Autostraddlers!

    How strange and lovely to read all your kind words here. It sounds like many of you have already read the book at least once. I hope it holds up for you the second time through.

    I’m going to copy and save all the above comments in case I ever get really depressed.

    Okay, I now have to get back to the book I’m writing about my mom. I can’t stop drawing for a second or I get behind schedule.

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    Yes, very meta. IF this is really me. Which I am less and less sure about.

    The book about my mom will be out next May. It’s called Are You My Mother?

    And the class I’m teaching at U of Chicago next spring is indeed with cool-ass lady Hillary Chute! It’s going to be on the theory (Hillary) and practice (me) of autobiographical comics.

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    I also love this book and read it a couple times a year.

    fyi anyone in Boston who wants to buy a copy there are 2 in the used section of the Harvard book store for $7.50, as of approx 3 weeks ago /psa

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    you guyssss

    this book is (1) real good and (2) currently on my night stand 1 day overdue from the libraryyyyy. it is probs at your library, cause mine had 2 copies and I live in suburbia. It has all the literary references/librarians love gays.

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    I picked up a copy of Fun Home at Powell’s during my first trip to Portland last year. Now I live in Seattle but my roommate left FH back in Arizona. Looks like another day trip to Portlandia, oh no, what’s a grrrl to do. I am so excited to read it again, as well as the supplemental articles! Also, DTWOF=still totes relevant. Ms. Bechdel, thank you.

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    My girlfriend gave me Fun Home about a week after we started dating. Such a great book! Can’t wait to discuss it, and super excited to see what insights Allison has to contribute also!

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    I am a proud owner of a signed copy. Alison came to St. Louis on her book tour. She read a chapter from the book and did a Q&A. If I remember correctly, she said the lettering was actually printed digitally instead of hand drawn.

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    hello hello hi! we are reading fun home RIGHT NOW in my queer theory class and i think alison is coming here soon to talk about it?
    also rachel this is a question specifically for you: you definitely had t king in brandeis right? how much do you love him? because it’s his class i speak of and my general feeling about him is brilliance

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