Novel Name: Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
Writer: Alison Bechdel
Artist: Alison Bechdel
Release Date: 2012
Alison Bechdel has had a complicated life. She grew up with a father who was distant and sometimes cruel and discovering right before his death (and possible suicide) that he was gay…an identity crisis that she herself had to deal with. Alison in her way decided to tell her father’s story in Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic…with great fears of what it would do to her mother. Now, Alison is trying to unwrap the woman who gave her life and see why their relationship has had its ups and downs.
Alison Bechdel’s first story of her life Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic was met with huge success and acclaim. Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama is her follow-up and contains events before, surrounding, and after her publication of the book (and a play of the children’s classic of the same title by P.D. Eastman). While the first book primarily dealt with her relationship with her father, this book focuses on her mother.
I really enjoyed Fun Home (which is a weird thing to say about a book of so much sadness) and really looked forward to this “sequel”. It is hard not to compare the two since they are almost sharing material. While Alison still has her great, expressive illustrations that manage to be simple but complex at the same time, it feels like this book is missing something that the other book had.
Despite being “focused” on her mother, this almost feels more about Alison and her life and how her relationship with her mother played into it. I’m not a huge fan of psychoanalysis and the likes, and it focuses heavily on Alison, her dreams, and her speaking to various psychiatrists throughout her life. Part of the issue might be the relationship with her mother and the distance between them, maybe she can’t write about something that appears to be a bit fragile (she constantly is fearful of what her mother might think of Fun Home and other lesbian writings). When she was writing about her father, her father was already gone, so there is no angst and fear of disappointment on his side.
I flew through Fun Home, but here I had to put it down often. Like Fun Home, it did jump around in time which is sometimes frustrating if we are trying to understand how Alison is coping with her emotions and her mother. I was sometimes confused as to where in her life we were and what had already occurred.
Those are the criticism I have of the book, but for the most part I still think it is a really strong case for bio-comics. People like Harvey Pekar, Marjane Satrapi, Art Spiegelman, and Alison Bechdel have kind of redefined this genre and made it their own. Though I wish this was a bit stronger like Fun Home, I still recommend it as a good read…just read Fun Home first for more depth.
[easyazon-block align=”center” asin=”0618982507″ locale=”us”]