I first read Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel, as part of a course reading list in college, and soon after went to see its musical production on Broadway.
Bechdel’s father was a closeted gay English teacher, who was also the owner of the local funeral home, and who would have frequent affairs with young men such as the family’s babysitter. Growing up during a time when the Stonewall Riots took place and within a small conservative family town, Bechdel’s father never comes out and is forced to hold his sexuality a secret.
Holding this secret from his family causes the relationship he has with its members to be tense and filled with anger, often times leaving the family in a state of uncertainty.
Bechdel’s story follows her through college, and shows how she uses literature to help her begin to understand her fraught relationship with her father. It seems that it is through their individual love of books, that they are brought the closest.
As Bechdel begins to form a sort of bond with her father through books and before she can talk with him about his sexuality, her father is hit and killed by a truck while crossing the street. Bechdel suspects it may have been suicide. She must now unpack her father’s past and the depth of his motivations, and is therefore to see correlations amongst her own.
Bechdel’s book is an intimate, and often times comical, graphic novel. It has been a favorite of mine, and remains a novel I will pick up to read over and over again.