fun home alison bechdel

Fun Home – Graphic Novel Review

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by author Alison Bechdel

Everytime I look at lists of memoirs to read I come across this nonfiction graphic novel. I have been aware of author Bechdel for some time from her feminist “Bechdel Test” for movies and media. If you’re unfamiliar she states that a movie passes the test if there are two or more female characters who have a conversation about something other than a man. Clearly, this is oversimplified and there are more than a few exceptions but many viewers latched on to this as gospel.

Bechdel has developed a brand for herself as a lesbian feminist icon. I assumed, since she seems to be respected by so many people, that her memoir Fun Home would be a good representation of these communities. Hoo boy was I wrong. Not only did I not enjoy her writing style but I would say that this book is actively harmful to LGBTQ individuals and does not reflect what I would consider to be modern feminist ideals.

Let’s start with the actual writing and technical aspects of the graphic novel. She was born of two English teachers so language is obviously important to her. She writes in an extremely unapproachable fashion utilizing her Master’s degree vocabulary and references to obscure literature, philosophy, and ancient myths. It’s the kind of writing that people say they like because they think they’ll sound stupid if they admit they don’t.

Fun Home, high vocabulary
Fun Home, high vocabulary

This pretentious style is an automatic turn off for me. There’s nothing wrong with a strong vocabulary and making references to drive home a point but Bechdel seems to hold contempt for the reader and makes it as impenetrable as possible. Additionally, her references don’t enhance the story in any way. She compares her father restoring an old home to ancient literature as though it means anything. It’s a graphic novel, she could show and not tell but she instead chooses to flaunt how well read she is.

The title Fun Home refers to her family’s funeral home business, a nice play on words for a book that is called a “tragicomic.” Now, this could mean tragedy/comedy or tragedy/comic book. Another nice play on words. I initially thought there would be some comedy but I don’t think Bechdel laughs so the latter is the only one that’s true.

She tells her story of her relationship with her father who killed himself. After his death his hidden sexuality was revealed and she compares his secrets to her own budding lesbianism.

Here’s where the book becomes harmful. Her father not only had affairs with men but with his students and underaged boys as well. He was a groomer who would hire young babysitters and manipulate them into becoming his sexual partners.

She compares her sexuality to his as though they are the same. She holds an odd respect for him as a gay person when he’s actually a pedophile. She associates being gay with being a pedophile in the same way politicians do in an attempt to outlaw gay marriage and dehumanize trans people. She’s feeding this horrible fire of lies and hate that is actively getting LGBTQ people murdered.

LGBTQ harmful stereotypes
LGBTQ harmful stereotypes

She also compares mental disabilities and illnesses in a careless way that diminishes this minority group as well. She describes her family as autistic in the same breath as describing her OCD and her father’s solipsism as though all autistic people have these destructive traits as well. She is so narcissistic that she never stops to think that her words could do more harm than good.

There is a subset of memoirs that are written by people who believe that others need to read their stories when they actually need to be told in private to a therapist. Some memoirs are able to help people expand their worldview or help people get out of troubled situations but Fun Home is an exercise in emotional vomit. Writing our feelings down can be a useful means of catharsis but that does not mean that they need to be published and used to make a profit.

With the inexplicable critical acclaim of this memoir Bechdel has become a bestseller and has turned a family shame into her own fame. She degrades her own communities and places herself on a pedestal. I cannot in any way recommend that anyone read Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. It’s exploitative, self serving, and downright dangerous.

0/5 homes 🏠

Instead of Fun Home read these Great Memoirs

I love comic books, nonfiction, and everything in between! Come discuss your favorites!