This is the memoir of Alison Bechdel, her recollections of growing up in an emotionally-distant family, the role of literature in her, and her father’s, life, her identifying as a lesbian at college and coming out, by letter, to her parents. It is the story of growing up in a house that can seem more like a museum than a home. Of living in a funeral home. Of trying to connect with her father. All told in graphic form.
On one level I really enjoyed this book. It has won plenty of awards and I really do feel that I can appreciate it, as both a memoir/biography and as a graphic novel. It has plenty to like. But for some reason I just never really got it. Academically it probably has a lot going for it, but I had no emotional connect. In fact, if this doesn’t sound odd when talking about a biography, it felt a little self-indulgent and “all about me” in parts.
That is harsher than it sounded in my head, but at the same time it is true. And the Daddy-issue dominates so that other aspects of her family life/history are almost ignored. She has a distant relationship with her mother just as much as with her domineering father which isn’t explored at all. But then again there are a lot more parallels between Bechdel and her father, and the fact that her father is dead means that this was probably always going to be the case.
Those negatives aside, however it is still well worth reading. The story of Bechdel coming to realise that she wasn’t just a tom-boy but a lesbian is told extremely well. And there are plenty of moments in the book that really do work. So I would recommend you read it, I just didn’t love it, but I do think that it is a rewarding book, and one that you could very easily read again.