Title: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Author: Alison Bechdel
Challenge status: Included on the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund‘s list of case studies. Book #16 on Summer of Banned Books ’13.
Why: The case study refers to a Missouri public library’s challenge of the book for obscene images.
First line: “Like many fathers, mine could occasionally be prevailed on for a spot of ‘airplane’”.
Fun Home is a memoir, a coming of age tale – with a twist. Bechdel describes her complex and often difficult relationship with her father, from childhood through high-school and college. The twist is, as Bechdel enters college and begins exploring her sexuality, she realizes her true orientation and, as she comes out to her parents, finds out that her father is also confronting and coming clean about his own sexual preferences. But the full impact of these revelations go unresolved with her father’s sudden death, so Bechdel is left to analyze her past, present, and future without clear answers to many of her questions.
What is most bittersweet in the book are not the accountings of the father-daughter differences (his obsession with the never-ending decorating projects, her disinterest in dresses and “looking pretty”), but instead the experiences that connected them. I loved how the two of them connected through literature – simple memories of him picking out books for her to read, sharing his treasures. And references to books, authors, and the arts continue throughout the story. (Since I’ve been reading a ton lately, I found the allusions and references to be pretty cool; a neat addition to the story)
“Fun home” is the pet name the kids have given the family business, the local funeral parlor. It provides a shot of darkness, but is a neutral (rather than a depressing or creepy) element in the story. It provides some depth to the family’s day-to-day routine, and gives the readers an angle to consider, when death is such a routine part of life, how the characters might have unique perspectives on death, change, and chance.