The Fun of Reading Fun Home

Fun Home has been one of the most interesting reads in this class, for me. It is modern (published in 2007 and whose Broadway musical adaptation gained much fame in 2015), somewhat dissociated from the subject matter in our previous reads, seemingly devoid of a substantive sexual identity crisis thus far as we have seen elsewhere, and most importantly: it is a comic. Similar to Audre Lorde’s description of Zami as a “Biomythography,” Alison Bechdel labels Fun Home as a “Tragicomic.” The nuances of such a label’s meaning is certainly debatable. However, what struck me the most was the dissonance between being the book being alluded to as a tragedy when (at least within the first 2 chapters) there is a distinct and jarring lack of emotion. Growing up in a Funeral Home (a so-called “Fun Home”), Alison describes how she and her siblings grew immune to the debilitating emotions many others who passed through the home experienced. Alision doesn’t even understand why they have smelling salts around if not simply to play with them. The Bechdel family seemed to be running simply on social necessity and practicality. Even at their own father’s funeral, the Bechdel children only lingered in front of the casket “for as long as [they] sensed it was appropriate.”

funhome3

The fact that Fun Home is a comic is extremely important, as well as a pleasing detour from standard literature. In other books we have read, though descriptions of people and places are given and serve a vital purpose in cementing a certain image in the reader’s mind, a comic book can (almost) fully show the reader directly. In addition to the poignant details given through the author’s text, we as readers can see the wallpaper that Alison so hated. We can see Alison’s father berating and physically abusing his children. We can see the facial expressions of those being discussed and how they are similar or dissimilar to what is being described. I truly am enjoying Fun Home because the visual aspect of reading it is so engaging, adding much more detail and substance to the work.

And now for something completely different:

  1. How does the upbringing of the Bechdel children relate to a “standard” upbringing in today’s world and culture? How far from the norm do they fall?
  2. Given the immense importance of the “Fun Home,” how have your experiences or assumptions about funeral homes colored your interpretation of this reading?
  3. Looking at Fun Home as a comic book, which image was the most striking to you? Which panel or page held the most visual significance? Choose a subject panel and deconstruct its function based on its visual components.
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One thought on “The Fun of Reading Fun Home

  1. I agree with you of the importance of this book being a comic. With other books we have read, characters’ descriptions were described in words rather than pictures, not only is there a visual but also there is a clear cut image of how each character looked like. Because of words can be read differently by each person, the image in each person’s head is different and not clear of how each person in the novel supposed to look like.
    To answer your questions, I think the Bechdel children do have a relatively normal childhood (aside from the abuse) in terms of American culture, and with the funeral home being portrayed as something neutrally rather than a taboo or something scary, I think it emphasized how normal their lives were because I just thought of it in a way of how they were very accustomed to it because of having a lot of exposure from how their dad is a mortician. With funeral homes in my life, growing up, it was not a big role. Growing up in a Vietnamese-American household, death was considered a taboo after the person was buried to the ground (like would openly tell relatives of how the person died but if the relative asked what happened after putting the person to rest, we would just say they lived a good life), and children were VERY discouraged to attend funerals (I have attended one funeral after begging my mother), so I have very limited exposure to funeral homes and saw them as either glitches in the matrix or a deep dark tunnel that no one can ever get out. And with the panels, the panel that first caught my attention was on page 7 with Alison’s father carrying a long structure with wearing a pair of shorts, resembling the paintings of Christ carrying the cross. It drew my attention in terms of functionality as I think it shows how Alison’s father saw himself, a martyr who made sacrifices for his family.

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