My Mother, My Other: Alison Bechdel's Comic Drama
November 27, 2012 5:14 PM Subscribe
Named as one of the New York Times's 100 Notable Books of 2012
, Alison Bechdel's graphic memoir, "Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama,"
calls on memory, Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse,"
Donald Winnicott's psychoanalytic work
(.pdf), Alice Miller's "The Drama of the Gifted Child,"
and the shade of P.D. Eastman's classic short book
about a baby bird in search of its mama
to explore her fraught relationship with her mother, Helen. It's art
. It's theory
. It's self
. It's meta-memoir in search of a mother.
Alison Bechdel talks about what the book is
In Are You My Mother? I’m kind of zooming in on the very act of reflection. Why is it so crucial, how does it work? How does it affect the way we become ourselves? Why does false reflection go hand in hand with oppression? How do you undo internalized oppression? The book, as my mom observes near the end, is a metabook, a book that’s about its own creation. It’s also as detailed a self-portrait‚ as detailed a reflection of myself‚ as I can muster.
(She also talks to the Wall Street Journal
, and Vermont Public Radio
. Her earlier comic strip, the long-running "Dykes to Watch Out For,"
set the stage for using cartooning as a means to explore and represent a self.)
The graphic memoir is a follow-up to Bechdel's "Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic,"
which invented a means for her to explore her own childhood in a Pennsylvania funeral home and the mystery that was her father--a funeral director and closeted gay man who came out a few weeks after Bechdel herself had, and who was struck and killed (in a possible suicide) by a Sunbeam truck shortly afterward. Says
Bechdel, "I felt like no one really knew the truth about my father. ... And I really thought I was telling the truth in the book about my dad, I thought there was such a thing as truth, and I was very earnestly going to relate it. But since finishing it, since it’s been out in the world, I’ve realized that was naïve. There are lots of different truths, and this was just my version."
And the mother she discovered
AB: ...Whenever I talk in public about Fun Home, people are always very curious about my mother and want to know more about her. But I didn’t intentionally set out to answer their questions by writing a book about her. Are You My Mother? came out of my own organic desire to understand more about her myself.
Please enjoy the "lucid comic anguish"
of Bechdel and her drawn-from-life art.