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.”
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:
- 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?
- Given the immense importance of the “Fun Home,” how have your experiences or assumptions about funeral homes colored your interpretation of this reading?
- 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.