Graphic Novel Review: Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel

Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel
Series: N/A
Published by HoughtonMifflin on May 1, 2012
Genres: Nonfiction, Memoir, Graphic Novel, GLBT
Pages: 290 : Hardback edition
Source: Borrowed from my local library
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From the best-selling author of Fun Home, Time magazine’s No. 1 Book of the Year, a brilliantly told graphic memoir of Alison Bechdel becoming the artist her mother wanted to be.

Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home was a pop culture and literary phenomenon. Now, a second thrilling tale of filial sleuthery, this time about her mother: voracious reader, music lover, passionate amateur actor. Also a woman, unhappily married to a closeted gay man, whose artistic aspirations simmered under the surface of Bechdel’s childhood . . . and who stopped touching or kissing her daughter good night, forever, when she was seven. Poignantly, hilariously, Bechdel embarks on a quest for answers concerning the mother-daughter gulf. It’s a richly layered search that leads readers from the fascinating life and work of the iconic twentieth-century psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, to one explosively illuminating Dr. Seuss illustration, to Bechdel’s own (serially monogamous) adult love life. And, finally, back to Mother—to a truce, fragile and real-time, that will move and astonish all adult children of gifted mothers.


Oh, Bechdel, how I love thee.

@ me: stop.

If you haven’t read Fun Home, or if you’ve been living under a patriarchal rock and are not aware of what the Bechdel Test is, then I feel really really sorry for you. But wait! You can change all that and pick this up immediately!

I had been bemoaning to Emily that I couldn’t take anymore Gender and Women’s Studies classes for my major (because I’ve maxed out on credits) and complained that there wasn’t enough gay literature in my life. She suggested Fun Home, which I had admitted that I had already read for a Gender and Women’s Studies Comics and Graphic Novels class, so she suggested Are You My Mother?

And oh my goodness, I’m so glad she did (thanks Em!).

Are You My Mother? consumed me. I couldn’t put it down and read straight through it in only two sittings. There’s something really compelling about Bechdel’s writing that always pulls me in and keeps me reading, analyzing, and reflecting. I think that’s what so awesome about her work is that even though it’s deeply personal and reflective of her own self, it also gives you a moment to pause and think about your own relationships and life.

My mom and I are super close so I didn’t connect with everything she brought forth here, but there is something singular in the way she describes her relationships with everyone and the things she struggles with that sometimes, even if it’s just a kernel or a flicker, I relate so deeply to it that I’m surprised she isn’t diving into my brain and unspooling my thoughts onto the page.

So, if you’re looking for a really excellent GLBT graphic novel, then pick this up and give it a read through. Though, I do suggest reading Fun Home first. Chronologically it will make more sense and honestly, you can never have enough Bechdel in your life.

Also, if you don’t want to wear striped pants and cut all your hair off into a kick-ass pixie cut by the end of reading this, then I think you need to go back and read it again.

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