Holiday Gift Bag: Fun Home

Time to take another look at my annual holiday gift recommendations. Sure, you could go pick out any random comic book for the comic fan in your life and call it a present… or you could try to find them something that’ll really impress them with your gift-giving mojo.

Today, let’s talk about Fun Home.

Fun Home” is cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s memoir of her childhood and her memories of her father. Bechdel was, prior to this book, best known as the creator of the “Dykes to Watch Out For” comic strip. And like her comic strip, “Fun Home” is meant for grownups. It addresses, very frankly and seriously, themes about homosexuality, gender, suicide, dysfunctional families, mental illness, and much more. Don’t get this for your ten-year-old and try to blame me for it. Get this for the serious grownup comics reader in your life who’s looking for something smart and outside of the mainstream.

What’s it about? Well, you’ve got Alison, her siblings, her mom, and her dad, Bruce. They all live in a big Victorian house in Pennsylvania. Bruce is an English teacher and runs the local funeral home — the title of the book comes from the family’s joking nickname for the funeral home. Bruce was a dead-serious man, often angry, a rabid reader and book-collector, equal parts artistic and practical, obsessed with rebuilding the family home into perfect, pristine condition. He seemed to see his family as free labor to help him fix up the house. He died when Alison was almost 20, not long after she’d come out to the family as a lesbian, and only weeks after his wife announced she wanted a divorce. Alison believes his death was a suicide, though it could have been an accident.

All that, plus Bruce Bechdel was hiding one heck of a secret, too.


The art style is really cool — part cartoonish, part realistic, with beautifully rendered backgrounds and details. Alison actually took photos of herself posing as each character so she could use them as references when she illustrated it. If you haven’t heard me say it before, good cartooning is more engaging and more emotionally affecting than more realistic artwork any day of the week, and that’s doubly true for “Fun Home.” Even if you don’t like all the characters, you want to learn more and more about them.

I think this is a book you should read, but you don’t have to take my word for it. Back in 2006, Time magazine named it their best book of the year. Not the best comic book — the best book, period. Salon called it their best nonfiction debut, the New York Times, Amazon, New York magazine, Publisher’s Weekly, and the Times of London all put it on their best books lists. It won an Eisner, Entertainment Weekly put it on their “New Classics” list, and the Guardian put it in a list of “1000 Novels Everyone Must Read.”

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. Go pick it up.

No Comments

  1. Sado Said,

    December 3, 2009 @ 9:38 am

    A bit of Fun Home was included in the Best American Comics 2007 compendium:

    That’s what got me to read Fun Home, and it’s always good to be introduced to new artists/writers each year.