Book review: Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel

Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 1, 2012
Source: Borrowed

A 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.

I didn’t go to the library intending to check out Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother, but it’s what I ended up leaving with. You see, I like to just peruse the graphic novel section and see what jumps out at me since graphic novels are what I read when I’m too distracted to read anything else. I was intrigued when I saw Bechdel’s name for two reasons. First, I plan to eventually read Fun Home, and second, I wanted to know more about the woman who created the Bechdel test.

This book was interesting, I’ll give it that. It’s not entirely what I expected it to be — it focuses much more on psychoanalysis, dreams, and Virginia Woolf than I’d anticipated — but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was bad. I don’t know if I would have picked it up if I’d realized that was what it’s primarily about, but it still wasn’t bad. I was just expecting more on the mother-daughter relationship (something that definitely interests me) and less on Freud and penis envy and the Electra complex (interesting, but not was I was looking for when I read this).

I have seen some reviewers on Goodreads mention that this book is more enjoyable if you’ve already read Fun Home, so my rating seems to be at least partially my fault. I’m still planning to pick that up at some point, but it’s definitely not as high of a priority as it was.

#ps19: a book with a question in the title

Have you read Are You My Mother? Can you recommend any good graphic memoirs?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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