Beerside Chat ->Fun Home
“Fun Home” is a family tragicomedy by American cartoonist Alison Bechdel. The graphic memoir tells the story of Bechdel's discovery of her own sexuality, her relationship with her gay father, and her attempts to unlock the mysteries surrounding his life and death. Fun Home was turned into a Broadway musical in 2013 and collected five Tony Awards in 2015.
During our recent Beerside Chat, we began by discussing the genre of graphic novels. Some weren’t convinced a graphic novel would be as effective in a memoir format, but found that in Fun Home, the format enhanced the story and emphasized the distance between Bechdel and her father. We touched on the concept of “showing not telling” when it comes to writing and this book literally shows the story within the panels. Rather than guessing what the author is trying to imply through subtext, she shows us with pictures that depict the true emotions of her characters.
The debate also turned to whether or not Alison’s father’s death was an accident or a suicide. Most believed it was suicide, but all found the inconclusive nature of his death frustrating. It’s also difficult to separate the facts from feelings when you are looking at the events through the lens of his daughter, the narrator. She admits that assuming her father’s death was a suicide could have been a coping mechanism or a way to understand him better, but her portrayal of him gives the audience the impression that he was not leading a truthful or fulfilled life.
Finally, we discussed the parallels between Alison’s sexuality and her father’s. Both struggled inwardly without saying a word to each other about their commonality. Mostly because each had difficulties facing their own sexuality. let alone recognizing these similarities in the other. The two also lived in very different times. Alison came out in college, when a gay community was growing, while her father never had that opportunity, years ago, in a small and closed-minded town. Their truest connection to each other was through their shared love of reading and literature. Books were a way they could be honest with each other and send messages they were not able to voice out loud.